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M E R O P E 













<piXok:a\ovfjLei' ^er tvreXeiac. 

P R E r A C E^. 

I AM not about to defend myself for having taken 
the story of the following tragedy from classical 
antiquity. On this subject I have already said all 
which appears to me to be necessary. For those 
readers to whom my tragedy will give pleasure, no 
argument on such a matter is required : one critic, 
whose fine intelligence it would have been an honour 
to convince, lives, alas ! no longer : there are others, 
upon whom no arguments which I could possibly use 
would produce any impression. The Athenians fined 
Phrynichus for representing to them their own suf- 
fering's : there are critics who would fine us for re- 
presenting to them anything else. 

But, as often as it has happened to me to be blamed 
or praised for my supposed addiction to the classical 
school in poetry, I have thought, with real humilia- 
tion, how little any works of mine were entitled to 
rank among the genuine works of that school ; how 
little they were calculated to give, to readers unac- 

A 4 


quainted with the great creations of classical antiquity, 
any adequate impression of their form or of their 
spirit. And yet, whatever the critics may say, there 
exists, I am convinced, even in England, even in this 
stronghold of the romantic school, a wide though an 
ill-informed curiosity on the subject of the so-called 
classical school, meriting a more complete satis- 
faction than it has hitherto obtained. Greek art 
— the antique — classical beauty — a nameless hope 
and interest attaches, I can often see, to these words, 
even in the minds of those who have been brought 
up among the productions of the romantic school ; of 
those who have been taught to consider classicalism 
as inseparable from coldness, and the antique as an- 
other phrase for the unreal. So immortal, so inde- 
structible is the power of true beauty, of consum- 
mate form : it may be submerged, but the tradition 
of it survives : nations arise which know it not, 
which hardly believe in the report of it ; but they, 
too, are haunted with an indefinable interest in its 
name, with an inexplicable curiosity as to its nature. 

But however the case may be with regard 
to the curiosity of the public, I have long had the 
strongest desire to attempt, for my own satisfaction, to 
come to closer quarters with the form which produces 
such grand effects in the hands of the Greek masters ; 
to try to obtain, through the medium of a living, 


familiar language, a fuller and more intense feeling 
of that beauty, which, even when apprehended 
through the medium of a dead language, so power- 
fully affected me. In his delightful Life of Goethe, 
Mr. Lewes has most truly observed that Goethe's 
Iphigeneia enjoys an inestimable advantage in being 
written in a language which, being a modern lan- 
guage, is in some sort our own. Not only is it vain 
to expect that the vast majority of mankind will ever 
undertake the toil of mastering a dead language, 
above all, a dead language so difficult as the Greek ; 
but it may be doubted whether even those, whose 
enthusiasm shrinks from no toil, can ever so tho- 
roughly press into the intimate feeling of works com- 
posed in a dead language as their enthusiasm would 

I desired to try, therefore, how much of the effec- 
tiveness of the Greek poetical forms I could retain in 
an English poem constructed under the conditions of 
those forms ; of those forms, too, in their severest 
and most definite expression, in their application to 
dramatic poetry. 

I thought at first that I might accomplish my ob- 
ject by a translation of one of the great works of 
^schylus or Sophocles. But a translation is a work 
not only inferior to the original by the whole dif- 
ference of talent between the first composer and his 
translator : it is even inferior to the best which the 


translator could do under more inspiring circum- 
stances. No man can do his best with a subject which 
does not penetrate him : no man can be penetrated by a 
subject which he does not conceive independently. 

Should I take some subject on which we have an 
extant work by one of the great Greek poets, and 
treat it independently ? Something was to be said 
for such a course : in antiquity, the same tragic stories 
were handled by all the tragic poets : Voltaire says 
truly that to see the same materials differently treated 
by different poets is most interesting ; accordingly, 
we have an (Edipus of Corneille, an (Edipus of Vol- 
taire : innumerable are the Agamemnons, the Elec- 
tras, the Antigones, of the French and Italian poets 
from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. But 
the same disadvantage which we have in translating 
clings to us in our attempt to treat these subjects 
independently : their treatment by the ancient mas- 
ters is so overwhelmingly great and powerful that we 
can henceforth conceive them only as they are there 
treated : an independent conception of them has be- 
come impossible for us : in working upon them we 
are still, therefore, subject to conditions under which 
no man can do his best. 

It remained to select a subject from among those 
which had been considered to possess the true requi- 
sites of good tragic subjects ; on which great works 
had been composed, but had not survived to chill 


emulation by their grandeur. Of such subjects there 
is, fortunately, no lack. In the writings of Hyginus, 
a Latin mythographer of uncertain date, we possess a 
large stock of them. The heroic stories in Hyginus, 
Maffei, the reformer of the Italian theatre, imagined 
rightly or wrongly to be the actual summaries of lost 
Greek dramas : they are, at any rate, subjects on 
which lost dramas were founded. Maffei counsels 
the poets of his nation to turn from the inferior sub- 
jects on which they were employing themselves, to 
this " miniera di tragici argomenti^^ this rich mine 
of subjects for tragedy. Lessing, the great German 
critic, echoes Maffei's counsel, but adds a warning. 
" Yes," he cries, " the great subjects are there, but 
they await an intelligent eye to regard them : they 
can be handled, not by the great majority of poets, 
but only by the small minority." 

Among these subjects presented in the collection 
of Hyginus, there is one which has long attracted my 
interest, from the testimony of the ancients to its 
excellence, and from the results which that testimony 
has called forth from the emulation of the moderns. 
That subject is the story of Merope. To the effec- 
tiveness of the situations which this story offered, 
Aristotle and Plutarch have borne witness : a cele- 
brated tragedy upon it, probably by Euripides, 
existed in antiquity. " The Cresphontes of Euripides 
is lost," exclaims the reviewer of Voltaire's Merope, a 
Jesuit, and not unwilling to conciliate the terrible 


pupil of his order ; " the Cresphontes of Euripides is 
lost : M. de Voltaire has restored it to us." " Aristotle," 
says Voltaire, " Aristotle, in his immortal work on 
Poetry, does not hesitate to affirm that the recognition 
between Merope and her son was the most interest- 
ing moment of the Greek stage." Aristotle affirms no 
such thing ; but he does say that the story of Merope, 
like the stories of Iphigeneia and Antiope, supplies an 
example of a recognition of the most affecting kind. 
And Plutarch says ; "Look at Merope in the tragedy, 
lifting up the axe against her own son as being the 
murderer of her own son, and crying — 

daiwT^pav 5)j r'fjvS' eyw SlScojxi aoi 

A more just stroke than that thou gav'st my son, 

What an agitation she makes in the theatre ! how she 
fills the spectators with terror lest she should be too 
quick for the old man who is trying to stop her, and 
should strike the lad ! " 

It is singular that neither Aristotle nor Plutarch 
names the author of the tragedy : scholiasts and other 
late writers quote from it as from a work of Euripides ; 
but the only writer of authority who names him as 
its author is Cicero. About fifty lines of it have 
come down to us : the most important of these re- 
mains are the passage just quoted, and a choral ad- 


dress to Peace ; of these I have made use in my tra- 
gedy, translating the former, and of the latter adopting 
the general thought, that of rejoicing at the return of 
peace : the other fragments consist chiefly of detached 
moral sentences, of which I have not made any use. 

It may be interesting to give some account of the 
more celebrated of those modern works which have 
been founded upon this subject. But before I pro- 
ceed to do this, I will state what accounts we have 
of the story itself. 

These proceed from three sources — Apollodorus, 
Pausanias, and Hyginus. Of their accounts that of 
Apollodorus is the most ancient, that of Pausanias the 
most historically valuable, and that of Hyginus the 
fullest. I will begin with the last-named writer. 

Hyginus says : — 

" Merope sent away and concealed her infant son. 
Polyphontes sought for him everywhere, and promised 
gold to whoever should slay him. He, when he 
grew up, laid a plan to avenge the murder of his 
father and brothers. In pursuance of this plan he 
came to king Polyphontes and asked for the promised 
gold, saying that he had slain the son of Cresphontes 
and Merope. The king ordered him to be hospitably 
entertained, intending to inquire further of him. He, 
being very tired, went to sleep, and an old man, who 
was the channel through whom the mother and son 
used to communicate, arrives at this moment in tears, 
bringing word to Merope that her son had disap- 


peared from his protector's house. Merope, believing 
that the sleeping stranger is the murderer of her son, 
comes into the guest-chamber with an axe, not know- 
ing that he whom she would slay was her son : the 
old man recognised him, and withheld Merope from 
slaying him. After the recognition had taken place, 
Merope, to prepare the way for her vengeance, 
affected to be reconciled with Polyphontes. The 
king, overjoyed, celebrated a sacrifice : his guest, pre- 
tending to strike the sacrificial victim, slew the king, 
and so got back his father's kingdom." 

Apollodorus says : — 

"Cresphontes had not reigned long in Messenia 
when he was murdered together with two of his sons. 
And Polyphontes reigned in his stead, he, too, being 
of the family of Hercules ; and he had for his wife, 
against her will, Merope, the widow of the murdered 
king. But Merope had borne to Cresphontes a third 
son, called ^pytus : him she gave to her own father 
to bring up. He, when he came to man's estate, 
returned secretly to Messenia, and slew Polyphontes 
and the other murderers of his father." 

Pausanias adds nothing to the facts told by Apol- 
lodorus, except that he records the proceedings of 
Cresphontes which had provoked the resentment of 
his Dorian nobles, and led to his murder. His state- 
ments on this point will be found in the Historical 
Introduction which follows this Preface. 


The account of the modern fortunes of the story of 
Merope is a curious chapter in literary history. In the 
early age of the French theatre this subject attracted 
the notice of a great man, if not a great poet, the car- 
dinal Richelieu. At his theatre, in the Palais Royal, 
was brought out, in 1641, a tragedy under the title 
of Telephonte, the name given by Hyginus to the 
surviving son of Merope. This piece is said by 
Voltaire to have contained about a hundred lines by 
the great cardinal, who had, as is well known, more 
bent than genius for dramatic composition. There 
his vein appears to have dried up, and the rest is by 
an undistinguished hand. This tragedy was followed 
by another on the same subject from the resident 
minister, at Paris, of the celebrated Christina of 
Sweden. Two pieces with the title of 3Ierope, be- 
sides others on the same story, but with different 
names, were brought out at Paris before the Merope 
of Voltaire appeared. It seems that none of them 
created any memorable impression. 

The first eminent success was in Italy. There too, 
as in France, more than one Merope was early pro- 
duced : one of them in the sixteenth century, by a 
Count Torelli, composed with choruses : but the first 
success was achieved byMaffei. vScipio Maffei, called 
by Voltaire the Sophocles and Varro of Verona, 
was a noble and cultivated person. He became in 
middle life the historian of his native place, Verona ; 


and may claim the honour of having partly antici- 
pated Niebuhr in his famous discovery, in the Capi- 
tular library of that city, of the lost works of Gaius, 
the Roman lawyer. He visited France and England, 
and received an honorary degree at Oxford. But in 
earlier life he signalised himself as the reviver of the 
study of Greek literature in Italy ; and with the aim 
to promote that study, and to rescue the Italian 
theatre from the debasement into which it had fallen, 
he brought out at Modena, in 1713, his tragedy of 

The effect was immense. " Let the Greek and 
Roman writers give place : here is a greater pro- 
duction than the CEdipus!" wrote, in Latin verse, an 
enthusiastic admirer. In the winter following its 
appearance, the tragedy kept constant possession of 
the stage in Italy ; and its reputation travelled into 
France and England, ^n England a play was produced 
in 1731, by a writer called Jeffreys, professedly taken 
from the Merope of Maffei. But at this period a love- 
intrigue was considered indispensable in a tragedy : 
Voltaire was even compelled by the actors to intro- 
duce one in his CEdipus: and although in Maffei's 
work there is no love-intrigue, the English adapter 
felt himself bound to supply the deficiency. Accord- 
ingly he makes, if we may trust Voltaire, the un- 
known son of Merope in love with one of her maids 
of honour: he is brought before his mother as his 


<5wn supposed murderer : she gives him the choice of 
death bj the dagger or by poison : he chooses the 
latter, drinks off the poison and falls insensible : but 
reappears at the end of the tragedy safe and sound, a 
friend of the maid of honour having substituted a 
sleeping-draught for the poison. Such is Voltaire's 
account of this English 3Ierope, of which I have 
not been able to obtain sight. Voltaire is apt to exag- 
gerate ; but the work was, without doubt, sufficiently 
absurd. A better English translation, by Ayre, ap- 
peared in 1740. I have taken from Maffei a line in 
my tragedy — 

" Tyrants think, him they murder not, they spare." 

Maffei has — 

" Ecco il don dei tiranni : a lor rassembra, 
Morte non dando altrui, di dar la vita." 

Maffei makes some important changes in the story 
as told by its ancient relaters. In his tragedy 
the unknown prince, Merope's son, is called Egisto : 
Merope herself is not, as the ancients represented 
her, at the time of her son's return the wife of 
Polyphontes, but is repelling the importunate offer of 
his hand by her husband's murderer : Egisto does not, 
like Orestes, know his own parentage, and return 
secretly to his own home in order to wreak ven- 
geance, in concert with his mother, upon his father's 



murderer : he imagines himself the son of Messenian 
parents, but of a rank not royal, intrusted to an old 
man, Polidoro, to be brought up ; and is driven by- 
curiosity to quit his protector and visit his native 
land. He enters Messenia, and is attacked by a 
robber, whom he kills. The blood upon his dress 
attracts the notice of some soldiers of Polyphontes 
whom he falls in with ; he is seized and brought to 
the royal palace. On hearing his story, a suspicion 
siezes Merope, who has heard from Polidoro that her 
son has quitted him, that the slain person must have 
been her own son. The suspicion is confirmed by the 
sight of a ring on the finger of Egisto, which had 
belonged to Cresphontes, and which Merope sup- 
poses the unknown stranger to have taken from her 
murdered son : she twice attempts his life : the 
arrival of Polidoro at last clears up the mystery for 
her ; but at the very moment when she recognises 
Egisto, they are separated, and no interview of re- 
cognition takes place between the mother and son. 
Finally, the prince is made acquainted with his 
origin, and kills Polyphontes in the manner described 
by Hyginus. 

This is an outline of the story as arranged by Maffei. 
This arrangement has been followed, in the main, by 
all his successors. His treatment of the subject has, 
I think, some grave defects, which I shall presently 
notice : but his work has much nobleness and feeling ; 


it seems to me to possess, on the whole, more merit 
of a strictly poetical kind than any of the subsequent 
works upon the same subject. 

Voltaire's curiosity, which never slumbered, was 
attracted by the success of Maffei. It was not until 
1736, however, when his interest in Maffei's tragedy 
had been increased by a personal acquaintance with 
its author, that his own Merope was composed. It 
was not brought out upon the stage until 1743. It was 
received, like its Italian predecessor, with an enthu- 
siasm which, assuredly, the English Merope will not 
excite. From its exhibition dates the practice of 
calling for a successful author to appear at the close 
of his piece : the audience were so much enchanted 
with Voltaire's tragedy, that they insisted on seeing 
the man who had given them such delight. To 
Corneille had been paid the honour of reserving for 
him the same seat in the theatre at all representa- 
tions ; but neither he nor Racine were ever '^ called 

Voltaire, in a long complimentary letter, dedi- 
cated his tragedy to Maffei. He had at first in- 
tended, he says, merely to translate the Merope of 
his predecessor, which he so greatly admired : he still 
admired it ; above all, he admired it because it pos- 
sessed simplicity; that simplicity which is, he says, 
his own idol. But he has to deal with a Parisian 
audience, with an audience who have been glutted 

a 2 


with masterpieces until their delicacy has become 
excessive ; until they can no longer support the 
simple and rustic air, the details of country life, which 
Maffei had imitated from the Greek theatre. The 
audience of Paris, of that city in which some thirty 
thousand spectators daily witnessed theatrical per- 
formances, and thus acquired, by constant practice, a 
severity of taste, to which the ten thousand Athenians 
who saw tragedies but four times a year could not 
pretend — of that terrible city, in which 

" Et pueri nasum rhinocerotis habent: *' 

this audience loved simplicity, indeed, but not the 
same simplicity which was loved at Athens and im- 
itated by Maffei. " I regret this," says Voltaire, " for 
how fond I am of simple nature ! but, ilfaut se plier 
au gout d'une nation, one must accommodate one- 
self to the taste of one's countrjTnen." 

He does himself less than justice.. When he objects, 
indeed, to that in Maffei's work which is truly "naif et 
rustique," to that which is truly in a Greek spirit, he 
is wrong. His objection, for instance, to the passage 
in which the old retainer of Cresphontes describes, in 
the language of a man of his class, the rejoicings 
which celebrated his master's accession, is, in my 
opinion, perfectly groundless. But the wonderful 
penetration and clear sense of Voltaire seizes, in 


general, upon really weak points in Maffei's work : 
upon points which, to an Athenian, would have 
seemed as weak as they seemed to Voltaire. A 
French audience, he says, would not have borne to 
witness Polyphontes making love to Merope, whose 
husband he had murdered : neither would an Athenian 
audience have borne it. To hear Polyphontes say to 
Merope " lo famOy^ even though he is but feigning, 
for state purposes, a love which he has not really, 
shocks the natural feeling of mankind. Our usages, 
says Voltaire, would not permit that jMerope should 
twice rush upon her son to slay him, once with a 
javelin, the next time with an axe. The French 
dramatic usages, then, would on this point have per- 
fectly agreed with the laws of reason and good taste : 
this repetition of the same incident is tasteless and 
unmeaning. It is a grave fault of art, says Voltaire, 
that, at the critical moment of recognition, not a 
word passes between Merope and her son. He is 
right ; a noble opportunity is thus thrown away. 
He objects to Maffei's excessive introduction of con- 
versations between subaltern personages : these con- 
versations are, no doubt, tiresome. Other points 
there are, with respect to which we may say that 
Voltaire's objections would have been perfectly sound 
had Maffei really done what is imputed to him : but 
he has not. Voltaire has a talent for misrepresenta- 
tion, and he often uses it unscrupulously. 

a 3 


He never used it more unscrupulously than on this 
occasion. The French public, it appears, took Vol- 
taire's expressions of obligation to Maffei somewhat 
more literally than Voltaire liked : they imagined 
that the French Merope was rather a successful 
adaptation of the Italian Merope than an original 
work. It was necessary to undeceive them. A letter 
appeared, addressed by a M. de La Lindelle to Vol- 
taire, in which Voltaire is reproached for his exces- 
sive j)raises of Maffei's tragedy, in which that work 
is rigorously analysed, its faults remorselessly dis- 
2)layed. No merit is allowed to it : it is a thoroughly 
bad piece on a thoroughly good subject. Lessing, 
who, in 1768, in his Hamburgische Dramaturgie, re- 
viewed Voltaire's Merope at great length, evidently 
has divined, what is the truth, that M. de La Lindelle 
and Voltaire are one and the same person. It required 
indeed but little of the great Lessing's sagacity to di- 
vine that. An unknown M. de La Lindelle does not 
write one letter in that style of unmatched incisive- 
ness and animation, that style compared to which the 
style of Lord Macaulay is tame, and the style of Iso- 
crates is obscure, and then pass for ever from the 
human stage. M. de La Lindelle is Voltaire ; but thai 
does not hinder Voltaire from replying to him with 
perfect gravity. " You terrify me ! " he exclaims to 
his correspondent — that is, to himself: "you terrify 
me ! you are as hypercritical as Scaliger. Why not 


fix your attention rather on the beauties of M. 
Maffei's work, than on its undoubted defects ? It is 
my sincere opinion that, in some points, M. Maffei's 
Merope is superior to my own." The transaction is 
one of the most signal instances of literary sharp 
practice on record. To this day, in the ordinary 
editions of Voltaire, M. de I(a Lindelle's letter figures, 
in the correspondence prefixed to the tragedy of 
Merope, as the letter of an authentic person ; al- 
though the true history of the proceeding has long 
been well known, and Voltaire's conduct in it was 
severely blamed by La Harpe. 

Voltaire had said that his Merope was occasioned 
by that of Maffei. " Occasio7ied" says Lessing, 
** is too weak a word : M. de Voltaire's tragedy owes 
everything to that of M. Maffei." This is not just. 
We have seen the faults in Maffei's work pointed out 
by Voltaire. Some of these faults he avoids : at 
the same time he discerns, with masterly clearness, 
the true difficulties of the subject. "Comment se 
prendre," he says, " pour faire penser a Merope que 
son fils est I'assassin de son fils meme ? " That is one 
problem ; here is another : " Comment trouver des 
motifs necessaires pour que Polyphonte veuille epouser 
Merope ?" Let us see which of Maffei's faults Vol- 
taire avoids : let us see how far he solves the pro- 
blems which he himself has enunciated. 

The story, in its main outline, is the same with 

a 4 


Voltaire as with IMafFei ; but in some particulars it is 
altered, so as to have more probability. Like Maffei's 
Egisto, Voltaire's Egisthe does not know his own 
origin : like him, youthful curiosity drives him to 
quit his aged protector, and to re-enter Messenia. 
Like him he has an encounter with a stranger, whom 
he slays, and whose bloctd, staining his clothes, leads 
to his apprehension. But this stranger is an emissary 
of Polyphontes, sent to effect the young prince's 
murder. This is an improvement upon the robber of 
Maffei, who has no connexion whatever with the 
action of the piece. Suspicion falls upon Egisthe on 
the same grounds as those on which it fell upon 
Egisto. The suspicion is confirmed in Egisthe's case 
by the appearance of a coat of armour, as, in Egisto's 
case, it was confirmed by the appearance of a ring. 
In neither case does Merope seem to have suflftcient 
cause to believe the unknown youth to be her son's 
murderer. In Voltaire's tragedy, Merope is igno- 
rant until the end of the third act that Polyphontes 
is her husband's murderer ; nay, she believes that 
Cresphontes, murdered by the brigands of Pylos, 
has been avenged by Polyphontes, who claims her 
gratitude on that ground. He desires to marry her 
in order to strengthen his position. " Of interests in 
the state," he says, 

" II ne reste aujoiird'hui que le votre et le mien : 
Nous devons I'un a I'autre un mutuel soutien." 


Voltaire thus departs widely from the tradition ; but 
he can represent Merope as entertaining and discuss- 
ing the tyrant's offer of marriage without shocking 
our feelings. The style, however, in which Voltaire 
makes Polyphontes urge his addresses, would some- 
times, I think, have wounded a Greek's taste as much 
as Maffei's lo t^amo — 

" Je sais que vos appas, encore dans le printemps, 
Pourraient s'efFaroucher de I'hiver de mes ans." 

What an address from a stern, care-haunted ruler to a 
widowed queen, the mother of a grown-up son ! 
The tragedy proceeds ; and Merope is about to slay 
her son, when his aged guardian arrives and makes 
known to her who the youth is. This is as in Maffei's 
piece ; but Voltaire avoids the absurdity of the double 
attempt by Merope on her son's life. Yet he, too, 
permits Egisthe to leave the stage without exchanging 
a word with his mother : the very fault which he 
justly censures in Maffei. Egisthe, indeed, does not 
even learn, on this occasion, that Merope is his mo- 
ther : the recognition is thus cut in half. The second 
half of it comes afterwards, in the presence of Poly- 
phontes ; and his presence imposes, of course, a re- 
straint upon the mother and son. Merope is driven, 
by fear for her son's safety, to consent to marry Po- 
lyphontes, although his full guilt is now revealed to 


her ; but she is saved by her son, who slays the tyrant 
in the manner told in the tradition and followed by 

What is the real merit of Voltaire's tragedy ? We 
must forget the rhymed Alexandrines ; that metre, 
faulty not so much because it is disagreeable in itself, 
as because it has in it something which is essentially 
unsuited to perfect tragedy ; that metre which is so 
indefensible, and which Voltaire has so ingeniously 
laboured to defend. He takes a noble passage from 
Racine's Phedre, alters words so as to remove the 
rhyme, and asks if the passage now produces as good 
an effect as before. But a fine passage which we are 
used to we like in the form in which we are used to it, 
with all its faults. Prose is, undoubtedly, a less 
noble vehicle for tragedy than verse ; yet we should 
not like the fine passages in Goethe's prose tragedy of 
Egmont the better for having them turned into 
verse. Besides, it is not clear that the unrhymed 
Alexandrine is a better tragic metre than the rhymed. 
Voltaire says that usage has now established the 
metre in France, and that the dramatic poet has no 
escape from it. For him and his contemporaries this 
is a valid plea ; but how much one regrets that the 
poetical feeling of the French nation did not, at a 
period when such an alteration was still possible, 
change for a better this unsuitable tragic metre, as 
the Greeks, in the early period of their tragic art, 


changed for the more fitting iambus their trochaic te- 

To return to Voltaire's Merope. It is admirably 
constructed, and must have been most effective on 
the stage. One feels, as one reads it, that a poet 
gains something by living amongst a population who 
have the nose of the rhinoceros : his ingenuity be- 
comes sharpened. This work has, besides, that stamp 
of a prodigious talent which none of Voltaire's works 
are without; it has vigour, clearness, rapid move- 
ment i it has lines which are models of terse observa- 
tion — 

" Le premier qui fut roi fut un soldat heureux : 
Qui sert bien son pays n'a pas besoin d'aieux." 

It has lines which are models of powerful, animated, 
rhetoric — 


" Courons a Polyphonte — implorons son appui." 


" N'implorez que les dieux, et ne craignez que lui." 

What it wants is a charm of poetical feeling, which 
Racine's tragedies possess, and which has given to 
them the decisive superiority over those of Voltaire. 
He has managed his story with great adroitness ; but 
he has departed from the original tradition yet further 
than Maffei. He has avoided several of Maffei's 
faults : why has he not avoided his fault of omitting 


to introduce, at the moment of recognition, a scene 
between the mother and son ? Lessing thinks that 
he wanted the double recognition in order to enable 
him to fill his prescribed space, that terrible " car- 
riere de cinq actes " of which he so grievously com- 
plains. I believe, rather, that he cut the recognition 
in two, in order to produce for his audience two dis- 
tinct shocks of surprise : for to inspire surprise, Vol- 
taire considered the dramatic poet's true aim ; an 
opinion which, as we shall hereafter see, sometimes 
led him astray. 

Voltaire's Merope was adapted for the English 
stage by Aaron Hill, a singular man ; by turns, poet, 
soldier, theatrical manager, and Lord Peterborough's 
private secretary ; but always, and above all, an in- 
defatigable projector. He originated a beech-oil 
company, a Scotch timber company, and a plan to 
colonise Florida. He published Essays on Reducing 
the Price of Coals, on Repairing Dagenham Breach, 
and on English Grape Wines ; ^ epic poem on 
Gideon, a tragedy called The Fatal Vision, or Fall 
of Siam, and a translation of Voltaire's Zaire. His 
Merope was his last work. It appeared in 1 749 with 
a dedication to Lord Bolingbroke ; it was brought 
on the stage with great success, Garrick acting in 
it ; and Hill, who was at this time in poverty, and 
who died soon after, received a considerable sum from 
his benefit nights. I have not seen this work, which 


is not included in the Inclibald collection of acted 
plays. Warton calls Aaron Hill an affected and fus- 
tian writer, and this seems to have been his reputation 
among his contemporaries. His Zara, which I have 
seen, has the fault of so much of English literature 
of the second class — an incurable defect of style. 

One other Merope remains to be noticed — the 
Merope of Alfieri. In this tragedy, which appeared 
in 1783, Alfieri has entirely followed Maffei and Vol- 
taire. He seems to have followed Maffei in the first 
half of it ; Voltaire in the second. His Polyphontes, 
however, does not make love to Merope : desiring to 
obtain her hand, in order by this marriage to make 
the Messenians forget their attachment to Cres- 
phontes, he appeals to her self-interest. " You are 
miserable," he says ; " but a throne is a great con- 
solation. A throne is — 

la sola 
Non vile ammenda, che al fallir mio resti." 

Egisto, in Alfieri's piece, falls under suspicion from 
the blood left on his clothes in a struggle with a 
stranger, whom he kills and throws into the river 
Pamisus. The suspicion is confirmed by the appear- 
ance of a girdle recognised by Merope as having 
belonged to her son ; as it was confirmed in Maffei's 
piece by the appearance of a ring, in Voltaire's, by 
that of a coat of armour. The rest is, in the main, as 
with Voltaire, except that Alfieri makes Polyphontes 


perish upon the stage, under circumstances of con- 
siderable improbability. 

This work of Alfieri has the characteristic merit, 
and the characteristic fault, of Alfieri's tragedies : it 
has the merit of elevation, and the fault of narrow- 
ness. Narrow elevation; that seems to me exactly 
to express the quality of Alfieri's poetry : he is a 
noble-minded, deeply interesting man, but a monoto- 
nous poet. 

A mistake, a grave mistake it seems to me, in 
the treatment of their subject, is common to Maffei, 
Voltaire, and Alfieri. They have abandoned the 
tradition where they had better have followed it ; 
they have followed it, where they had better have 
abandoned it. 

The tradition is a great matter to a poet ; it is an 
unspeakable support ; it gives him the feeling that he 
is treading on solid ground. Aristotle tells the tragic 
poet that he must not destroy the received stories. 
A noble and accomplished living poet, M. Manzoni, 
has, in an admirable dissertation, developed this 
thesis of the importance to the poet of a basis of tra- 
dition. Its importance I feel so strongly, that, where 
driven to invent in the false story told by Merope's son, 
as by Orestes in the Electra, of his own death, I could 
not satisfy myself until I discovered in Pausanias a 
tradition, which I took for my basis, of an Arcadian 
hunter drowned in the lake Stymphalus, down one of 


those singular Katabothra, or chasms in the lime- 
stone rock, so well known in Greece, in a manner 
similar to that in which ^pytus is represented to 
have perished. 

Maffei did right, I think, in altering the ancient 
tradition where it represents Merope as actually the 
wife of Polyphontes. It revolts our feeling to consider 
her as married to her husband's murderer ; and it is 
no great departure from the tradition to represent her 
as sought in marriage by him, but not yet obtained. 
But why did Maffei (for he, it will be remembered, 
gave the story its modern arrangement, which Vol- 
taire and Alfieri have, in all its leading points, fol- 
lowed), why did Maffei abandon that part of the 
tradition which represents iEpytus, the Messenian 
prince, as acquainted with his own origin ? Why 
did he and his followers prefer to attribute to curi- 
osity a return which the tradition attributed to a 
far more tragic motive ? Whv did they compel 
themselves to invent a machinery of robbers, as- 
sassins, guards, rings, girdles, and I know not what, to 
effect that which the tradition effects in a far simpler 
manner, to place ^pytus before his mother as his 
own murderer ? Lessing imagines that Maffei, who 
wished to depict, above all, the maternal anxiety of 
Merope, conceived that this anxiety would be more 
naturally and powerfully awakened by the thought of 
her child reared in hardship and obscurity as a 


poor man's son, than by the thought of him reared in 
splendour as a prince in the palace of her own father. 
But what a conception of the sorrow of a queen, whose 
husband has been murdered, and whose son is an 
exile from his inheritance, to suppose that such a 
sorrow is enhanced by the thought that her child is 
rudely housed and plainly fed; to assume that it 
would take a less tragic complexion if she knew that 
he lived in luxury ! No ; the true tragic motive of 
Merope^s sorrow is elsewhere : the tradition amply 
supplied it. 

Here, then, the moderns have invented amiss, be- 
cause they have invented needlessly ; because, on this 
point, the tradition, as it stood, afforded perfect ma- 
terials to the tragic poet: and, by Maffei's change, 
not a higher tragic complication, but merely a greater 
puzzle and intricacy is produced. I come now to 
a point on which the tradition might with advan^ 
tage, as I think, have been set aside ; and that is, the 
character of Polyphontes. , 

Yet, on this point, to speak of setting aside the tra- 
dition is to speak too strongly ; for the tradition is 
here not complete. Neither Pausanias nor Apollodorus 
mention circumstances which definitely fix the cha- 
racter of Polyphontes ; Hyginus, no doubt, represents 
him as a villain, and, if Hyginus follows Euripides, 
Euripides also thus represented him. Euripides may 
possibly have done so ; yet a purer tragic feeling, it 


seems to me, is produced, if Poljpliontes is represented 
as not wholly black and inexcusable, than if he is 
represented as a mere monster of cruelty and hypo- 
crisy. Aristotle's profound remark is well known, 
that the tragic personage whose ruin is represented, 
should be a personage neither eminently good, nor yet 
one brought to ruin by sheer iniquity ; nay, that his 
character should incline rather to good than to bad, 
but that he should have some fault which impels 
him to his fall. For, as he explains, the two grana 
tragic feelings, pity and terror, which it is the busi- 
ness of tragedy to excite, will not be excited by the 
spectacle of the ruin of a mere villain ; since pity is 
for those who suffer undeservedly, and such a man 
suffers deservedly : terror is excited by the fall of 
one of like nature with ourselves, and we feel that 
the mere villain is not as ourselves. Aristotle, no 
doubt, is here speaking, above all, of the Protagonist, or 
principal personage of the drama ; but the noblest 
tragic poets of Greece rightly extended their applica- 
tion of the truth on which his remark is based to all 
the personages of the drama : neither the Creon of So- 
phocles, nor the Clytemnestra of ^schylus, are wholly 
inexcusable ; in none of the extant dramas of ^schy- 
lus or Sophocles is there a character which is entirely 
bad. For such a character we must go to Euripides ; 
we must go to an art — wonderful indeed, for I 
entirely dissent from the unreserved disparagers of 


this great poet — but an art of less moral significance 
than the art of Sophocles and -^schylus ; we must 
go to tragedies like the Hecuba, for villains like 

What is the main dramatic difficulty of the story 
of Merope, as usually treated ? It is, as Alfieri 
rightly saw, that the interest naturally declines from 
the moment of Merope's recognition of her son ; that 
the destruction of the tyrant is not, after this, matter 
of interest enough to affect us deeply. This is true, 
if Polyphontes is a mere villain. It is not true, if he 
is one for the ruin of whom we may, in spite of his 
crime, feel a profound compassion. Then our in- 
terest in the story lasts to the end : for to the very 
end we are inspired with the powerful tragic emotions 
of commiseration and awe. Pausanias states circum- 
stances which suggest the possibility of representing 
Polyphontes, not as a mere cruel and selfish tyrant, 
but as a man whose crime was a truly tragic fault, 
the error of a noble nature. Assume such a nature 
in him, and the turn of circumstances in the drama 
takes a new aspect : Merope and her son triumph, 
but the fall of their foe leaves us awestruck and com- 
passionate : the story issues tragically, as Aristotle 
has truly said that the best tragic stories ought to 

Neither Maffei, nor Voltaire, nor Alfieri have 
drawn Polyphontes with a character to inspire any 


feeling but aversion, with any traits of nobleness 
to mitigate our satisfaction at his death. His cha- 
racter being such, it is difficult to render his anxiety 
to obtain Merope's hand intelligible, for Merope's 
situation is not such as to make her enmity really 
dangerous to Polyphontes ; he has, therefore, no 
sufficient motive of self-interest, and the nobler 
motives of reparation and pacification could have 
exercised, on such a character, no force. Voltaire 
accordingly, whose keen eye no weak place of this 
kind escaped, felt his difficulty. " Neither M. Maffei 
nor I," he confesses, " have assigned any sufficient 
motives for the desire of Polyphontes to marry 

To criticise is easier than to create ; and if I have 
been led, in this review of the fortunes of my story, 
to find fault with the works of others, I do not on 
that account assume that I have myself produced a 
work which is not a thousand times more faulty. 

It remains to say something, for those who are not 
familiar with the Greek dramatic forms, of the form 
in which this tragedy is cast. Greek tragedy, as is 
well known, took its origin from the songs of a 
chorus, and the stamp of its origin remained for ever 
impressed upon it. A chorus, or band of dancers, 
moving around the altar of Bacchus, sang the adven- 
tures of the god. To this band Thespis joined an 
actor, who held dialogue with the chorus, and who 

b 2 


was called vTvoKpmjc, the answerer, because he an- 
swered the songs of the chorus. The drama thus 
commenced; for the dialogue of this actor with the 
chorus brought before the audience some action of 
Bacchus, or of one of the heroes ; this action, narrated 
by the actor, was commented on in song, at certain 
intervals, by the chorus alone, ^schylus added a 
second actor, thus making the character of the repre- 
sentation more dramatic, for the chorus was never 
itself so much an actor as a hearer and observer of 
the actor : Sophocles added a third. These three 
actors might successively personate several characters 
in the same piece ; but to three actors and a chorus 
the dramatic poet limited himself: only in a single 
piece of Sophocles, not brought out until after his 
death, was the employment of a fourth actor, it ap- 
pears, necessary. 

The chorus consisted, in the time of Sophocles, of 
fifteen persons. After their first entrance they re- 
mained before the spectators, without withdrawing, 
until the end of the piece. Their place was in the 
orchestra ; that of the actors was upon the stage. 
The orchestra was a circular space, like the pit of 
our theatres : the chorus arrived in it by side-en- 
trances, and not by the stage. In the centre of the 
orchestra was the altar of Bacchus, around which 
the chorus originally danced ; but in dramatic repre- 
sentations their place was between this altar and 


the stage : here they stood, a little lower than the 
persons on the stage, but looking towards them, 
and holding, through their leaders, conversation with 
them : then, at pauses in the action, the united chorus 
sang songs expressing their feelings at what was 
happening upon the stage, making, as they sang, cer- 
tain measured stately movements between the stage 
and the altar, and occasionally standing still. Steps 
led from the orchestra to the stage, and the chorus, or 
some members of it, might thus, if necessary, join 
the actors on the stage ; but this seldom happened, 
the proper place for the chorus was the orchestra. 
The dialogue of the chorus with the actors on the 
stage passed generally in the ordinary form of 
dramatic dialogue ; but, on occasions where strong 
feeling was excited, the dialogue took a lyrical form. 
Long dialogues of this' kind sometimes took place 
between the leaders of the chorus and one of the 
actors upon the stage, their burden being a lamenta- 
tion for the dead. 

The Greek theatres were vast, and open to the 
sky; the actors, masked, and in a somewhat stiff 
tragic costume, were to be regarded from a consider- 
able distance : a solemn, clearly marked style of 
gesture, a sustained tone of declamation, were thus 
rendered necessary. Under these conditions, intri- 
cate by -play, rapid variations in the action, requiring 
great mobility, ever-changing shades of tone and 

b 3 


presture in the actor, were impossible. Broad and 
simple effects were, under these conditions, above all 
to be aimed at ; a profound and clear impression 
was to be effected. Unity of plan in the action, and 
symmetry in the treatment of it, were indispensable. 
The action represented, therefore, was to be a single, 
rigorously developed action ; the masses of the com- 
position were to be balanced, each bringing out the 
other into stronger and distincter relief. In the best 
tragedies, not only do the divisions of the full choral 
songs accurately correspond to one another, but 
the divisions of the lyrical dialogue, nay, even the 
divisions of the regular dramatic dialogue, form cor- 
responding members, of which one member is the 
answer, the counter-stroke to the other ; and an 
indescribable sense of distinctness and depth of im- 
pression is thus produced. 

From what has been said, the reader will see that 
the Greek tragic forms were not chosen as being, in 
the nature of things, the best tragic forms ; such 
would be a wholly false conception of them. They 
are an adaptation to dramatic purposes, under cer- 
tain theatrical conditions, of forms previously ex- 
isting for other purposes ; that adaptation at which 
the Greeks, after several stages of improvement, 
finally rested. The laws of Greek tragic art, there- 
fore, are not exclusive ; they are for Greek drama- 
tic art itself, but they do not pronounce other 
modes of dramatic art unlawful ; they are, at most. 


prophecies of the improbability of dramatic success 
under other conditions. " Tragedy," says Aristotle, 
in a remarkable passage, " after going through many 
changes, got the nature which suited it, and there 
it stopped. Whether or no the kinds of tragedy 
are yet exhausted," he presently adds, " tragedy being 
considered either in itself, or in respect to the stage, 
I shall not now inquire." Travelling in a certain 
path, the spirit of man arrived at Greek tragedy; 
travelling in other paths, it may arrive at other 
kinds of tragedy. 

But it cannot be denied that the Greek tragic 
forms, although not the only possible tragic forms, 
satisfy, in the most perfect manner, some of the most 
urgent demands of the human sj^irit. If, on the one 
hand, the human spirit demands variety and the 
widest possible range, it equally demands, on the 
other hand, depth and concentration in its impressions. 
Powerful thought and emotion, flowing in strongly 
marked channels, make a stronger impression : this 
is the main reason why a metrical form is a more 
effective vehicle for them than prose : in prose there 
is more freedom, but, in the metrical form, the very 
limit gives a sense precision and emphasis. This sense 
of emphatic distinctness in our impressions rises, as the 
thought and emotion swell higher and higher without 
overflowing their boundaries, to a lofty sense of the 
mastery of the human spirit over its own stormiest 

b 4 


agitations ; and tliis, again, conducts us to a state of 
feeling which it is the highest aim of tragedy to 
produce, to a sentiment of sublime acquiescence in the 
course offate^ and in the dispeiisations of human life. 

What has been said explains, I think, the reason 
of the effectiveness of the severe forms of Greek 
tragedy, with its strongly marked boundaries, with 
it^ recurrence, even in the most agitating situations, 
of mutually replying masses of metrical arrangement. 
Sometimes the agitation becomes overwhelming, and 
the correspondence is for a time lost, the torrent of 
feeling flows for a space without check : this disorder 
amid the general order produces . a powerful effect ; 
but the balance is restored before the tragedy closes : 
the final sentiment in the mind must be one not of 
trouble, but of acquiescence. 

This sentiment of acquiescence is, no doubt, a sen- 
timent of repose ; and, therefore, I cannot agree with 
Mr. Lewes when he says, in his remarks on Goethe*s 
Iphigeneia, that " the Greek Dram^ is distinguished 
by its absence of repose ; by the currents of passion 
being for ever kept in agitation." I entirely agree, 
however, in his criticism of Goethe's tragedy ; of that 
noble poem which Schiller so exactly characterised 
when he said that it was " full of soul : " I entirely 
agree with him when he says that " the tragic situa- 
tion in the story of Iphigeneia is not touched by 
Goethe ; that his tragedy addresses the conscience 
rather than the emotions." But Goethe does not err 


from Greek ideas when he thinks that there is repose 
in tragedy : he errs from Greek practice in the mode 
in which he strives to produce that repose. Sopho- 
cles does not produce the sentiment of repose, of 
acquiescence, by inculcating it, by avoiding agitating 
circumstances : he produces it by exhibiting to us 
the most agitating matter under the conditions 
of the severest form. Goethe has truly recognised 
that this sentiment is the grand final effect of Greek 
tragedy : but he produces it, not in the manner of 
Sophocles, but, as Mr. Lewes has most ably pointed 
out, in a manner of his own ; he produces it by 
inculcating it ; by avoiding agitating matter ; by 
keeping himself in the domain of the soul and con- 
science, not in that of the passions. 

I have now to speak of the chorus ; for of this, 
as of the other forms of Greek tragedy, it is not 
enough, considering how Greek tragedy arose, to 
show that the Greeks used it; it is necessary to 
show that it is effective. Johnson says, that "it 
could only be by long prejudice and the bigotry of 
learning that Milton could prefer the ancient tra- 
gedies, with their encumbrance of a chorus, to the 
exhibitions of the French and English stages:" and 
his tragedy of Irene sufficiently proves that he him- 
self, in his practice, adopted Greek art as arranged at 
Paris, by those 

" Juges plus eclaires que ceux qui dans Athene 
Eirent naitre et fleurir les lois de Melpomene ; " 

xlii PREFACE. 

as Voltaire calls them in the prologue to his Eryphile. 
Johnson merely calls the chorus an encumbrance. 
Voltaire, who, in his (Edipus, had made use of the 
chorus in a singular manner, argued, at a later period, 
against its introduction. Voltaire is always worth 
listening to, because his keenness of remark is al- 
ways suggestive. " In an interesting piece the in- 
trigue generally requires," says Voltaire, " that the 
principal actors should have secrets to tell one 
another — Eh ! le moyen de dire son secret a tout un 
jjeuple. And, if the songs of the chorus allude to 
what has already happened, they must," he says, '• be 
tiresome; if they allude to what is about to happen, 
their effect will be to deroher le plaisir de la sur- 
prised How ingenious, and how entirely in Vol- 
taire's manner ! The sense to be appealed to in 
tragedy is curiosity ; the impression to be awakened 
in us is surprise. But the Greeks thought differently. 
For them, the aim of tragedy was profound moral 
impression : and the ideal spectator, as Schlegel and 
Miiller have called the chorus, was designed to enable 
the actual spectator to feel his own impressions more 
distinctly and more deeply. The chorus was, at each 
stage in the action, to collect and weigh the impres- 
sions which the action would at that stage naturally 
make on a pious and thoughtful mind ; and was at 
last, at the end of the tragedy, when the issue of the 
action appeared, to strike the final balance. If the 


feeling with which the actual spectator regarded the 
course of the tragedy could be deepened by remind- 
ing him of what was past, or by indicating to him 
what was to come, it was the province of the ideal 
spectator so to deepen it. To combine, to harmonise, 
to deepen for the spectator the feelings naturally 
excited in him by the sight of what was passing 
upon the stage — this is one grand effect produced by 
the chorus in Greek tragedy. 

There is another. Coleridge observes that Shak- 
speare, after one of his grandest scenes, often plunges, 
as if to relax and relieve himself, into a scene of 
buffoonery. After tragic situations of the greatest 
intensity, a desire for relief and relaxation is no 
doubt natural, both to the poet and to the spectator ; 
but the finer feeling of the Greeks found this relief, 
not in buffoonery, but in lyrical song. The noble and 
natural relief from the emotion produced by tragic 
events is in the transition to the emotion produced by 
lyric poetry, not in the contrast and shock of a totally 
opposite order of feelings. The relief afforded to ex- 
cited feeling by lyrical song every one has experienced 
at the opera : the delight and facility of this relief 
renders so universal the popularity of the opera, of this 
" beau monstre^^ which still, as in Voltaire's time, 
" etouffe Melpomene.''^ But in the opera, the lyrical 
element, the element of feeling and relaxation, is in 
excess: the dramatic element, the element of intellect 


and labour, is in defect. In the best Greek tragedy, 
the lyrical element occupies its true place; it is the 
relief and solace in the stress and conflict of the 
action; it is not the substantive business. 

Few can have read the Samson Agonistes of 
Milton without feeling that the chorus imparts a 
peculiar and noble effect to that poem; but I regret 
that Milton determined, induced probably by his 
preference for Euripides, to adopt, in the songs of 
the chorus, " the measure," as he himself says, " called 
by the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, 
without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epode." 
In this relaxed form of the later Greek tragedy, the 
means are sacrificed by which the chorus could pro- 
duce, within the limits of a single choric song, the 
same effect which it was their business, as we have 
seen, to produce in the tragedy as a whole. The regular 
correspondence of part with part, the antithesis, in 
answering stanzas, of thought to thought, feeling to 
feeling, with the balance of the whole struck in one 
independent final stanza or epode, is lost; something 
of the peculiar distinctness and symmetry, which con- 
stitute the vital force of the Greek tragic forms, is thus 
forfeited. The story of Samson, although it has no 
mystery or complication, to inspire, like tragic stories 
of the most perfect kind, a foreboding and anxious 
gloom in the mind of him who hears it, is yet a truly 
dramatic and noble one ; but the forms of Greek tra- 


gedy, which are founded on Greek manners^ on the 
practice of chorus-dancing, and on the ancient habi- 
tual transaction of aifairs in the open air in front of 
the dwellings of kings, are better adapted to Greek 
stories than to Hebrew or any other. These reserves 
being made, it is impossible to praise the Samson 
Agonistes too highly : it is great with all the great- 
ness of Milton. Goethe might well say to Eckermann, 
after re-reading it, that hardly any work had been 
composed so entirely in the spirit of the ancients. 

Milton's drama has the true oratorical flow of ancient 
tragedy, produced mainly, I think, by his making it, 
as the Greeks made it, the rule, not the exception, to 
put the pause at the end of the line, not in the middle. 
Shakspeare has some noble passages, particularly in 
his Richard the Third, constructed with this, the 
true oratorical rhythm; indeed, that wonderful poet, 
who has so much besides rhetoric, is also the greatest 
poetical rhetorician since Euripides : still, it is to the 
Elizabethan poets that we owe the bad habit, in dra- 
matic poetry, of perpetually dividing the line in the 
middle. Italian tragedy has the same habit : in Al- 
fieri's plays it is intolerable. The constant occurrence 
of such lines produces, not a sense of variety, but a 
sense of perpetual interruption. 

Some of the measures used in the choric songs 
of my tragedy are ordinary measures of English 
verse : others are not so ; but it must not be supposed 


that these last are the reproduction of any Greek 
choric measures. So to adapt Greek measures to 
English verse is impossible : what I have done is to 
try to follow rhythms which produced on my own 
feeling a similar impression to that produced on it 
by the rhythms of Greek choric poetry. In such an 
endeavour, when the ear is guided solely by its own 
feeling, there is, I know, a continual risk of failure 
and of offence. I believe, however, that there are 
no existing English measures which produce the same 
effect on the ear, and therefore on' the mind, as 
that produced by many measures indispensable to the 
nature of Greek lyric poetry. He, therefore, who 
would obtain certain effects obtained by that poetry, 
is driven to invent new measures, whether he will 
or no. 

Pope and Dryden felt this. Pope composed two 
choruses for the Duke of Buckingham's Brutus, a 
tragedy altered from Shakspeare, and performed at 
Buckingham-house. A short specimen will show 
what these choruses were — 

" Love's purer flames the Gods approve : 
The Gods and Brutus bend to love : 
Brutus for absent Portia sighs, 
And sterner Cassius melts at Junia's eyes." 

In this style he proceeds for eight lines more, and 
then the antistrophe duly follows. Pope felt that the 


peculiar effects of Greek lyric poetry were here 
missed ; the measure in itself makes them impossible : 
in his ode on St. Cecilia's day, accordingly, he tries 
to come nearer to the Greeks. Here is a portion of 
his fourth stanza ; of one of those stanzas in which 
Johnson thinks that "we have all that can be per- 
formed by sweetness of diction, or elegance of versi- 
fication : " — 

" Dreadful gleams, 

Dismal screams, 

Tires that glow, 

Shrieks of woe. 

Sullen moans, 

Hollow groans, 

And cries of tortured ghosts," 

Horrible ! yet how dire must have been the neces- 
sity, how strong the feeling of the inadequacy of 
existing metres to produce effects demanded, which 
could drive a man of Pope's taste to such prodigies 
of invention ! Dryden in his Alexander s Feast de- 
viates less from ordinary English measures ; but to 
deviate from them in some degree he was compelled. 
My admiration for Dryden's genius is warm : my 
delight in this incomparable ode, the mighty son of 
his old age, is unbounded : but it seems to me that in 
only one stanza and chorus of the Alexander's Feast, 
the fourth, does the rhythm from first to last com- 
pletely satisfy the ear. 

xlviii PREFACE. 

I must have wearied my reader's patience : but I 
was desirous, in laying before him my tragedy, that 
it should not lose what benefit it can derive from the 
foregoing explanations. To his favourable reception 
of it there will still be obstacles enough, in its 
unfamiliar form, and in the incapacity of its author. 

How much do I regret that the many poets of the 
present day who possess that capacity which I have 
not, should not have forestalled me in an endeavour 
far beyond my powers ! How gladly should I have 
applauded their better success in the attempt to enrich 
with what, in the forms of the most perfectly-formed 
literature in the world, is most perfect, our noble 
English literature ; to extend its boundaries in the 
one direction, in which, with all its force and variety, 
it has not yet advanced I They would have lost 
nothing by such an attempt, and English literature 
would have gained much. 

Only their silence could have emboldened to under- 
take it one with inadequate time, inadequate know- 
ledge, and a talent, alas ! still more inadequate : one 
who brings to the task none of the requisite qualifica- 
tions of genius or learning : nothing but a passion 
for the great Masters, and an effort to study them 
without fancifulness. 

London : December, 1857. 



In the foregoing Preface * the story of Merope is detailed ; w hat 
is here added may serve to explain allusions which occur in the 
course of the tragedy, and to illustrate the situation of its chief 
personages at the moment when it commences. 

The events on which the action turns belong to the period of 
transition from the heroic and fabulous to the human and his- 
toric age of Greece. The hero Hercules, the ancestor cf the Mes- 
seniau ^pytus, belongs to fable : but the invasion of Peloponnesus 
by the Dorians under chiefs claiming to be descended from 
Hercules, and their settlement in Argos, Laced^emon, and Mes- 
senia, belong to history. JEpytus is descended on the father's 
side from Hercules, Perseus, and the kings of Argos : on the 
mother's side from Pelasgus, and the aboriginal kings of Arcadia. 
Callisto, the daughter of the wicked Lycaon, and the mother, by 
Zeus, of Areas, from whom the Arcadians took their name, was 
the grand-daughter of Pelasgus. The birth of Areas brought 
upon Calhsto the anger of the virgin-Goddess Artemis, whose 
service she followed : she was changed into a she-bear, and in 
this form was chased by her own son, grown to manhood. 
At the critical moment Zeus interposed, and the mother and son 
were removed from the earth, and placed among the stars : Cal- 
listo became the famous constellatioii of the Great Bear ; her 
son became Arcturus, Arctophylax, or Bootes. From him, Cyp- 
selus, the maternal" grandfather of .^pytus, and the children of 
Cypselus, Laias and Merope, were lineally descended. 

The events of the life of Hercules, the paternal ancestor of 
^pytus, are so well known that it is hardly necessary to record 
them. It is sufficient to remind the reader, that, although entitled 
to the throne of Argos by right of descent from Perseus and Da- 
naus, and to the thrones of Sparta and Messenia by right of con- 

* Page xiii. 


quest, he yet passed his life in labours and wanderings, subjected 
by the decree of fate to the commands of his far inferior kinsman, 
the feeble and malignant Emystheus. Hercules, who is repre- 
sented with the violence as well as the virtues of an adventurous 
ever-wan-ing hero, attacked and slew Eurytus, an Euboean king, 
with Avhom he had a quarrel, and carried off the daughter of 
Eurytus, the beautiful lole. The wife of Hercules, Deianeira, 
seized with jealous anxiety, remembered that long ago the 
centaur Nessus, dying by the poisoned aiTows of Hercules, had 
assured her that the blood flowing from his mortal wound 
would prove an infallible love-charm to win back the affections 
of her husband, if she should ever lose them. With this philtre 
Deianeira now anointed a robe of triumph, which she sent to 
her victorious liusband : he received it when about to offer public 
sacrifice, and immediately put it on : but the sun's rays called into 
activity the poisoned blood with which the robe was smeared : it 
clung to the flesh of the hero and consumed it. In dreadful agonies 
Hercules caused himself to be transported from Euboea to Mount 
(Eta : there, under the crags of Trachis, an immense funeral pile 
was constructed. Recognising the divine will in the fate which had 
overtaken him, the hero ascended the pile, and called on his chil- 
dren and followers to set it on fire. They refused; but the office was 
performed by Poeas, the father of Philoctetes, who, passing near, 
was attracted by the concourse round the pile, and who received 
the bow and arrows of Hercules for his reward. The flames 
arose, and the apotheosis of Hercules was consummated. 

He bequeathed to his offspring, the Heracleidre, his own claims 
to the kingdoms of Peloponnesus, and to the persecution of 
Eurystheus. They at first sought shelter with Ceyx, king of 
Trachis : he was too weak to protect them ; and they then took 
refuge at Athens. The Athenians refused to deliver them up at the 
demand of Eurystheus : he invaded Attica, and a battle was 
fought near Marathon, in which, after Macaria, a daughter of 
Hercules, had devoted herself for the preservation of her house, 
Eurystheus fell, and the Herachndee and their Athenian pro- 
tectors were victorious. The memory of Macaria's self-sacrifice 
was perpetuated by the name of a spring of water on the plain 
of Marathon, the spring Macaria. The Heracleidce then en- 
deavoured to effect their return to Peloponnesus. Hylhis, the 
eldest of them, inquired of the oracle at Delphi respecting their 


return ; he was told to return by the narrow passage, and in the 
third harvest. Accordingly, in the third year from that time, 
Hyllus led an army to the Isthmus of Corinth ; but there he 
was encountered by an army of Achaians and Arcadians, and 
fell in single combat with Echemus, king of Tegea. Upon this 
defeat the Heracleidte retired to Northern Greece : there, after 
much wandering, they finally took refuge with ^gimius, king 
of the Dorians, who appears to have been the fastest friend of their 
house, and whose Dorian warriors formed the army which at last 
achieved their return. But, for a hundred years from the date of 
their first attempt, the Heracleidse were defeated in their successive 
invasions of Peloponnesus. Cleolaus and Aristomachus, the son 
and grandson of Hyllus, fell in unsuccessful expeditions. At 
length the sons of Aristomachus, Temenus, Cresphontes, and 
Aristodemus, when grown up, repaired to Delphi and taxed 
the oracle with the non-fulfilment of the promise made to their 
ancestor Hyllus. But Apollo replied that his oracle had been 
misunderstood ; for that by the third harvest he had meant the 
third generation, and by the narrow passage he had meant the 
straits of the Corinthian Gulf. After this explanation the sons of 
Aristomachus built a fleet at Naupactus ; and finally, in the 
hundredth year from the death of Hyllus, and the eightieth fi'om 
the fall of Troy, the invasion was again attempted, and was this 
time successful. The son of Orestes, Tisamenus, who ruled 
both Argos and Lacedaemon, fell in battle ; many of his van- 
quished subjects left their homes and retked to Achaia. 

The spoil was now to be divided among the conquerors. 
Aristodemus, the youngest of the sons of Aristomachus, did not 
survive to enjoy his share. He was slain at Delphi by the sons 
of Pylades and Electra, the kinsmen of the house of Agamemnon, 
that house which the Heracleidse with their Dorian army dis- 
possessed. The claims of Aristodemus descended to his two 
sons, Procles and Eurysthenes, childi-en under the guardianship 
of their maternal uncle, Theras. Temenus, the eldest of the 
sons of Aristomachus, took the kingdom of Argos ; for the 
two remaining kingdoms, that of Sparta and that of Messenia, 
his two nephews, who were to rule jointly, and their uncle Cres- 
phontes, were to cast lots. Cresphontes wished to have the fertile 
Messenia, and induced his brother to acquiesce in a trick which 
secured it to him. The lot of Cresphontes and that of his two 


nephews were to be placed in a water-jar, and thrown oxit. 
Messenia was to belong to him whose lot came out first. 
With the connivance of Temenus, Cresphontes marked as his 
own lot a pellet composed of baked clay ; as the lot of his 
nephews, a pellet of unbaked clay : the unbaked pellet was of 
course dissolved in the water, while the brick pellet fell out 
alone. Messenia, therefore, was assigned to Cresphontes. 

Messenia was at this time ruled by Melanthus, a descendant 
of Neleus. This ancestor, a prince of the great house of ^olus, 
had come from Thessaly, and succeeded to the Messenian throne 
on the failure of the previous dynasty. Melanthus and his race 
were thus foreigners in Messenia, and were unpopular. His sub- 
jects offered little or no opposition to the invading Dorians : 
Melanthus abandoned his kingdom to Cresphontes, and retired 
to Athens. 

Cresphontes married Merope, whose native country, Arcadia, 
was not affected by the Dorian invasion. This marriage, the issue 
of which was three sons, connected him with the native population 
of Peloponnesus. He built a new capital of Messenia, Steny- 
claros, and transferred thither, from Pylos, the seat of govern- 
ment : he at first proposed, it is said by Pausanias, to divide 
Messenia into five states, and to confer on the native Messenians 
equal privileges with their Dorian conquerors. The Dorians 
complained that his administration unduly favoured the van- 
quished people : his chief magnates, headed by Polyphonies, 
himself a descendant of Hercules, formed a cabal against him, 
in which he was slain with his two eldest sons. The youngest 
son of Cresphontes, ^pytus, then an infant, was saved by his 
mother, who sent him to her father, Cypselus, the king of 
Arcadia, under whose protection he was brought up. 

The drama begins at the moment when -/Epytus, grown to 
manhood, returns secretly to Messenia to take vengeance on 
his father's murderers. At this period Temenus was no longer 
reigning at Argos : he had been murdered by his sons, jealous 
of their brother-in-law, Deiphontes : the sons of Aristodemus, 
Procles and Eurysthenes, at variance with their guardian, were 
reigning at Sparta. 

M E R P E. 



Laias, uncle o/^pytus, brother of Merope. 

iEPYTUS, son 0/ Merope and Cresphontes. 

PoLYPHONTEs, king of Messenia. 

Merope, widow of Cresphontes, the murdered king of Messbnia. 

The Chorus, o/Messenian maidens. 

Arcas, an old man of Merope's household. 


Guards, Attendants, &c. 

The Scene is before the royal palace in Stenyclaros, the capital of Messenia. 
In the foreground is the tomb of Cresphontes. The action commences at 




Son of Crespliontes, we have reacli'd the goal 
Of our night-journey, and thou see'st thy home. 
Behold thy heritage, thy father's realm ! 
This is that fruitful, fam'd Messenian land. 
Wealthy in corn and flocks, which, when at last 
The late-relenting Gods with victory brought 
The Heracleidae back to Pelops' isle, 
Fell to thy father's lot, the second prize. 
Before thy feet this recent city spreads 



Of Stenyclaros, which he built, and made 

Of his fresh-conquer'd realm the royal seat, 

Degrading Pylos from its ancient rule. 

There stands the temple of thine ancestor, 

Great Hercules ; and, in that public place, 

Zeus hath his altar, where thy father fell. 

Thence to the south, behold those snowy peaks, 

Taygetus, Laconia's border-wall : 

And, on this side, those confluent streams which 

Pamisus watering the Messenian plain : 
Then to the north, Lycaeus and the hills 
Of pastoral Arcadia, where, a babe 
Snatch'd from the slaughter of thy father's house, 
Thy mother's kin receiv'd thee, and rear'd up. — 
Our journey is well made, the work remains 
Which to perform we made it ; means for that 
Let us consult, before this palace sends 
Its inmates on their daily tasks abroad. 
Haste and advise, for day comes on apace. 


O brother of my mother, guardian true, 

And second father from that hour when first 

Mj mother's faithful servant laid me down, 

An infant, at the hearth of Cypselus, 

My grandfather, the good Arcadian king — 

Thy part it were to advise, and mine to obey. 

But let us keep that purpose, which, at home, 

We judg'd the best ; chance finds no better way. 

Go thou into the city, and seek out 

Whate'er in the Messenian city stirs 

Of faithful fondness towards their former king 

Or hatred to their present ; in this last 

Will lie, my grandsire said, our fairest chance. 

For tyrants make man good beyond himself ; 

Hate to their rule, which else would die away. 

Their daily-practis'd chafings keep alive. 

Seek this ; revive, unite it, give it hope ; 

Bid it rise boldly at the signal given. 

Meanwhile within my father's palace I, 



An unknown guest, will enter, bringing word 

Of my own death ; but, Laias, well I hope 

Through that pretended death to live and reign. 

[The Chorus comes forth. 

Softly, stand back ! — see, tow'rd the palace gates 

What black procession slowly makes approach ? — 

Sad-chanting maidens clad in mourning robes, 

With pitchers in their hands, and fresh -pulFd flowers : 

Doubtless, they bear them to my father's tomb. — 

[Merope comes forth. 

And see, to meet them, that one, grief-plung'd Form, 

Severer, paler, statelier than they all, 

A golden circlet on her queenly brow — 

O Laias, Laias, let the heart speak here ! 

Shall I not greet her ? shall I not Ifeap forth ? 

[PoLTPHONTEs comes forth, following Merope. 

Not so : thy heart would pay its moment's speech' 
By silence ever after ; for, behold ! 
The King (I know him, even through many years) 


Follows the issuing Queen, who stops, as calFd. 

No lingering now ! straight to the city I : 

Do thou, till for thine entrance to this house 

The happy moment comes, lurk here unseen 

Behind the shelter of thy father's tomb : 

Remove yet further off, if aught comes near. 

But, here while harbouring, on its margin lay, 

Sole offering that thou hast, locks from thy head : 

And fill thy leisure with an earnest prayer 

To his avenging Shade, and to the Gods 

Who under earth watch guilty deeds of men. 

To guide our effort to a prosperous close. 

[Laias goes out. Poltphontes, Merope, and The 
Chorus come forward. As they advance, -^EIpttus. 
who at first conceals himself behind the tomb, moves 
off the stage. 


Set down your pitchers, maidens ! and fall back ; 

Suspend your melancholy rites awhile : 

Shortly ye shall resume them with your Queen. — 

B 4 



(To Merope.) 
I sought thee, Merope ; I find thee thus. 
As I have ever found thee ; bent to keep, 
By sad observances and public grief, 
A mournful feud alive, which else would die. 
I blame thee not, I do thy heart no wrong : 
Thy deep seclusion, thine unyielding gloom. 
Thine attitude of cold, estrang'd reproach, 
These punctual funeral honours, year by year 
Repeated, are in thee, I well believe, 
Courageous, faithful actions, nobly dar'd. 
But, Merope, the eyes of other men 
Read in these actions, innocent in thee. 
Perpetual promptings to rebellious hope, 
War-cries to faction, year by year renew'd. 
Beacons of vengeance, not to be let die. 
And me, believe it, wise men gravely blame, 
And ignorant men despise me, that I stand 
Passive, permitting thee what course thou wilt. 
Yes, the crowd mutters that remorseful fear 


And paralysing conscience stop my arm, 

When it should pluck thee from thy hostile way. 

All this I bear, for, what I seek, I know ; 

Peace, peace is what I seek, and public calm : 

Endless extinction of unhappy hates : 

Union cemented for this nation's weal. 

And even now, if to behold me here. 

This day, amid these rites, this black-rob'd train, 

Wakens, O Queen ! remembrance in thy heart 

Too wide at variance with the peace I seek — 

I will not violate thy noble grief. 

The prayer I came to urge I will defer. 


This day, to-morrow, yesterday, alike 
I am, I shall be, have been, in my mind 
Tow'rds thee ; towards thy silence as thy speech. 
Speak, therefore, or keep silence, which thou wilt. 



Hear me, then, speak ; and let this mournful day, 

The twentieth anniversary of strife, 

Henceforth be honour'd as the date of peace. 

Yes, twenty years ago this day beheld 

The king Cresphontes, thy great husband, fall : 

It needs no yearly offerings at his tomb 

To keep alive that memory in my heart ; 

It lives, and, while I see the light, will live. 

For we were kinsmen — more than kinsmen — friends 

Together we had sprung, together liv'd ; 

Together to this isle of Pelops came 

To take the inheritance of Hercules ; 

Together won this fair Messenian land — 

Alas, that, how to rule it, was our broil ! 

He had his counsel, party, friends — I mine ; 

He stood by what he wish'd for — I the same ; 

I smote him, when our wishes clash'd in arms ; 

He had smit me, had he been swift as I. 

But while I smote him, Queen, I honour'd him ; 


Me, too, had he prevail'd, he had not scorn'd. 

Enough of this !- — since then, I have maintain'd 

The sceptre — not remissly let it fall — 

And I am seated on a prosperous throne : 

Yet still, for I conceal it not, ferments 

In the Messenian people what remains 

Of thy dead husband's faction ; vigorous once, 

Now crush'd but not quite lifeless by his fall. 

And these men look to thee, and from thy grief — 

Something too studiously, forgive me, shown — 

Infer thee their accomplice ; and they say 

That thou in secret nurturest up thy son. 

Him whom thou hiddest when thy husband fell, 

To avenge that fall, and bring them back to power. 

Such are their hopes — I ask not if by thee 

Willingly fed or no — their most vain hopes ; 

For I have kept conspiracy fast-chain'd 

Till now, and I have strength to chain it still. 

But, Merope, the years advance ; — I stand 

Upon the threshold of old age, alone. 


Always in arms, always in face of foes. 

The long repressive attitude of rule 

Leaves me austerer, sterner, than I would ; 

Old age is more suspicious than the free 

And valiant heart of youth, or manhood's firm, 

Unclouded reason ; I would not decline 

Into a jealous tyrant, scourg'd with fears. 

Closing, in blood and gloom, his sullen reign. 

The cares which might in me with time, I feel, 

Beget a cruel temper, help me quell 

The breach between our parties help me ciOse ; 

Assist me to rule mildly : let us join 

Our hands in solemn union, making friends 

Our factions with the friendship of their chiefs. 

Let us in marriage. King and Queen, unite 

Claims ever hostile else ; and set thy son — 

No more an exile fed on empty hopes, 

And to an unsubstantial title heir, 

But prince adopted by the will of power, 

And future king — before this people's eyes. 


Consider him ; consider not old hates : 

Consider, too, this people, who were dear 

To their dead king, thy husband — yea, too dear, 

For that destroy'd him. Give them peace ; thou 

O Merope, how many noble thoughts, 
How many precious feelings of man's heart, 
How many loves, how many gratitudes, 
Do twenty years wear out, and see expire ! 
Shall they not wear one hatred out as well ? 


Thou hast forgot, then, who I am who hear, 

And who thou art who speakest to me ? I 

Am Merope, thy murder'd master's wife . . . 

And thou art Polyphontes, first his friend, 

And then . . . his murderer. These offending tears 

That murder draws . . . this breach that thou would 'st 

Was by that murder open'd . . . that one child 


(If still, indeed, he lives) whom thou would'st seat 

Upon a throne not thine to give, is heir 

Because thou slew'st his brothers with their father. . . . 

Who can patch union here ? . . . What can there be 

But everlasting horror 'twixt us two. 

Gulfs of estranging blood ? . . . Across that chasm 

Who can extend their hands ? . . . Maidens, take back 

These offerings home ! our rites are spoil'd to-day. 


Not so : let these Messenian maidens mark 

The fear'd and blacken'd ruler of their race, 

Albeit with lips unapt to self-excuse, 

Blow off the spot of murder from his name. — 

Murder ! — but what is murder ? When a wretch 

For private gain or hatred takes a life, 

We call it murder, crush him, brand his name : 

But when, for some great public cause, an arm 

Is, without love or hate, austerely rais'd 

Against a Power exempt from common checks. 


Dangerous to all, to be but thus annull'd — 

Ranks any man with murder such an act ? 

With grievous deeds, perhaps ; with murder — no ! 

Find then such cause, the charge of murder falls : 

Be judge thyself if it abound not here. — 

All know how weak the Eagle, Hercules, 

Soaring from his death-pile on CEta, left 

His puny, callow Eaglets ; and what trials — 

Infirm protectors, dubious oracles 

Construed awry, misplann'd invasions — us'd 

Two generations of his offspring up ; 

Hardly the 'third, with grievous loss, regain'd 

Their fathers' realm, this isle, from Pelops nam'd. — 

Who made that triumph, though deferred, secure ? 

Who, but the kinsmen of the royal brood 

Of Hercules, scarce Heracleidae less 

Than they ? these, and the Dorian lords, whose king 

^gimius gave our outcast house a home 

When Thebes, when Athens dar'd not ; who in arms 

Thrice issued with us from their pastoral vales, 


And shed their blood like water in our cause ? — 

Such were the dispossessors : of what stamp 

Were they we dispossessed? — of us I speak, 

Who to Messenia with thy husband came — 

I speak not now of Argos, where his brother, 

Not now of Sparta, where his nephews reign'd : — 

What we found here were tribes of fame obscure. 

Much turbulence, and little constancy, 

Precariously rul'd by foreign lords 

From the -^olian stock of Neleus sprung, 

A house once great, now dwindling in its sons. 

Such were the conquer'd, such the conquerors : who 

Had most thy husband's confidence ? Consult 

His acts; the wife he chose was — full of virtues — 

But an Arcadian princess, mere akin 

To his new subjects than to us ; his friends 

Were the Messenian chiefs ; the laws he fram'd 

Were aim'd at their promotion, our decline ; 

And, finally, this land, then half-subdued. 

Which from one central city's guarded seat 


As from a fastness in the rocks our scant 
Handful of Dorian conquerors might have curb'd, 
He parcell'd out in five confederate states, 
Sowing his victors thinly through them all, 
Mere prisoners, meant or not, among our foes. 
If this was fear of them, it sham'd the king : 
If jealousy of us, it sham'd the man. — 
Long we refrain'd ourselves, submitted long, 
Construed his acts indulgently, rever'd, 
Though found perverse, the blood of Hercules : 
Reluctantly the rest ; but, against all, 
One voice preach'd patience, and that voice was mine. 
At last it reach'd us, that he, still mistrustful, 
Deeming, as tyrants deem, our silence hate, 
Unadulating grief conspiracy, 
Had to this city, Stenyclaros, call'd 
A general assemblage of the realm, 
With compact in that concourse to deliver, 
For death, his ancient to his new-made friends. 
Patience was thenceforth self-destruction. I, 



I his chief kinsman, I his pioneer 

And champion to the throne, I honouring most 

Of men the line of Hercules, preferr'd 

The many of that lineage to the one : 

What his foes dar'd not, I, his lover, dar'd : 

I, at that altar, where mid shouting crowds 

He sacrific'd, our ruin in his heart. 

To Zeus, before he struck his blow, struck mine : 

Struck once, and aw'd his mob, and sav'd this realm. 

Murder let others call this, if they will ; 

I, self-defence and righteous execution. 


Alas, how fair a colour can his tongue. 
Who self-exculpates, lend to foulest deeds. i 

Thy trusting lord didst thou, his servant, slay ; 
Kinsman, thou slew'st thy kinsman ; friend, thy friend ; i 
This were enough ; but let me tell thee, too, ! 

Thou hadst no cause, as feign'd, in his misrule. 

For ask at Argos, ask in Lacedaemon, 



Wliose people, when the Heracleidoe came. 

Were hunted out, and to Achaia fled. 

Whether is better, to abide alone, 

A wolfish band, in a dispeopled realm, * 

Or conquerors with conquer'd to unite 

Into one puissant folk, as he design'd ? 

These sturdy and unworn Messenian tribes, 

Who shook the fierce Neleidse on their throne, 

Who to the invading Dorians stretch'd a hand, 

And half bestow'd, half yielded up their soil — 

He would not let his savage chiefs alight, 

A cloud of vultures, on this vigorous race ; 

Ravin a little while in spoil and blood, 

Then, gorg'd and helpless, be assail'd and slain. 

He would have sav'd you from your furious selves. 

Not in abhorr'd estrangement let you stand ; 

He would have mix'd you with your friendly foes, 

Foes dazzled with your prowess, well inclin'd 

To reverence your lineage, more, to obey : 

So would have built you, in a few short years, 



A just, therefore a safe, supremacy. 

For well he knew, what you, his chiefs, did not — 

How of all human rules the over-tense 

Are apt to -snap ; the easy-stretch'd endure. — 

O gentle wisdom, little understood ! 

O arts, above the vulgar tyrant's reach ! 

O policy too subtle far for sense 

Of heady, masterful, inj urious men ! 

This good he meant you, and for this he died. 

Yet not for this — else might thy crime in part 

Be error deem'd — but that pretence is vain. 

For, if ye slew him for suppos'd misrule. 

Injustice to his kin and Dorian friends, 

Why with the offending father did ye slay 

Two unoffending babes, his innocent sons ? 

Why not on them have plac'd the forfeit crown, 

Rul'd in their name, and train'd them to your will 

Had they misrul'd ? had they forgot their friends ? 

Forsworn their blood ? ungratefully had they 

Preferr'd Messenian serfs to Dorian lords ? 


No : but to thy ambition tlieir poor lives 

Were bar ; and this, too, was their father's crime. 

That thou might'st reign he died, not for his fault 

Even fancied ; and his death thou wroughtest chief. 

For, if the other lords desir'd his fall 

Hotlier than thou, and were by thee kept back, 

Why dost thou only profit by his death ? 

Thy crown condemns thee, while thy tongue absolves. 

And now to me thou tenderest friendly league. 

And to my son reversion to thy throne : 

Short answer is sufficient ; league with thee, 

For me I deem such impious ; and for him, 

Exile abroad more safe than heirship here. 


I ask thee not to approve thy husband's death. 
No, nor expect thee to admit the grounds. 
In reason good, which justified my deed : 
With women the heart argues, not the mind. 
But, for tliy children's death, I stand assoil'd : 


22 MEPvOPE. 

I sav'd them, meant them honour : but thj friends 
Hose, and with fire and sword assailed mj housG- 
By night ; in that blind tumult they were slain. 
To chance impute their deaths, then, not to me. 


Such chance as kill'd the father, kill'd the sons. 


One son at least I spar'd, for still he lives. 


Tyrants think him they murder not they spare. 


Not much a tyrant thy free speech displays me. 


Thy shame secures my freedom, not thy Avill. 



Shame rarely checks the genuine tyrant's will. 


One merit, then, thou hast : exult in that. 


Thou standest out, I see, repellest peace. 


Thy sword repell'd it long ago, not I. 


Doubtless thou reckonest on the hope of friends. 


Not help of men, although, perhaps, of Gods. 


What Gods ? the Gods of concord, civil weal? 




No : the avenging Gods, wlio punish crime. 


Beware ! from thee upbraidings I receive 
With pity, nay, with reverence ; yet, beware I 
I know, I know how hard it is to think 
That right, that conscience pointed to a deed, 
Where interest seems to have enjoin'd it too. 
Most men are led by interest ; and the few 
Who are not, expiate the general sin, 
Involv'd in one suspicion with the base. 
Dizzy the path and perilous the way 
Which in a deed like mine a just man treads. 
But it is sometimes trodden, oh ! 'believe it. 
Yet how canst thou believe it ? therefore thou 
Hast all impunity. Yet, lest thy friends, 
Embolden'd by my lenience, think it fear, 
And count on like impunity, and rise. 
And have to thank thee for a fall, beware ! 


To rule this kingdom I intend : with sway 
Clement, if may be, but to rule it : there 
Expect no wavering, no retreat, no change. — 
And now I leave thee to these rites, esteem'd 
Pious, but impious, surely, if their scope 
Be to foment old memories of wrath. 
Pray, as thou pour'st libations on this tomb, 
To be delivered from thy foster'd hate, 
Unjust suspicion, and erroneous fear. 

[PoLTPHONTES goBs iTito the palace. The Chokus and 
jVIekope approach the tomb with their offerings. 


Draw, draw near to the tomb. strophe. 

Lay honey-cakes on its marge, 

Pour the libation of milk. 

Deck it with garlands of flowers. 

Tears fall thickly the while ! 

Behold, King, from the dark 

House of the grave, what we do. 


O Arcadian hills, antistrophe. 

Send us the Youth whom ye hide, 
Girt with his coat for the chase, 
With the low broad hat of the tann'd 
Hunter o'ershadowing his brow : 
Grasping firm, in his hand 
Advanc'd, two javelins, not now 
DanQ-erous alone to the deer. 


What shall I bear, lost str. i. 

Husband and King, to thy grave ? — 

Pure libations, and fresh 

Flowers ? But thou, in the gloom, 

Discontented, perhaps, 

Demandest vengeance, not grief ? 

Sternly requirest a man. 

Light to spring up to thy race ? 



Vengeance, Queen, is his due, * sir. 2. 

His most just prayer : yet his race — 

If that might soothe him below — 

Prosperous, mighty, came back 

In the third generation, the way 

Order'd by Fate, to their home. 

And now, glorious, secure, 

Fill the wealth-giving thrones 

Of their heritage, Pelops' isle. 


Suffering sent them. Death ant 1. 

March'd with them, Hatred and Strife 

Met them entering their halls. 

For from the day when the first 

Heracleidae receiv'd 

That Delphic hest to return. 

What hath involv'd them but blind 

Error on error, and blood ? 



Truly I hear of a Maid ant. 2. 

Of that stock born, who bestow'd 

Her blood that so she might make 

Victory sure to her race, 

When the fight hung in doubt : but she now, 

Honour'd and sung of by all, 

Far on Marathon plain 

Gives her name to the spring 

Macaria, blessed Child. 


She led the way of deatli. str. 3 

And the plain of Tegea, 
And the grave of Orestes — ^ 
Where, in secret seclusion 
Of his unreveal'd tomb, 
Sleeps Agamemnon's unhappy, 
Matricidalj world-fam'd, 
Seven-cubit-statur'd son — 


Sent forth Ecliemus, the victor, the king, 

By whose hand, at the Isthmus, 

At the Fate-denied Straits, 

Fell the eldest of the sons of Hercules 

Hyllus, the chief of his house. — 

Brother follow'd sister 

The all-wept way. 


Yes ; but his son's seed, wiser-counsell'd, 
Sail'd by the Fate-meant Gulf to their conquest ; 
Slew their enemies' king, Tisamenus. 
Wherefore accept that happier omen ! 
Yet shall restorers appear to the race. 


Three brothers won the field, ««f. 3. 

And to two did Destiny 

Give the thrones that they conquer'd. 

But the third, what delays him 


From his unattain'd crown ? . . . 

Ah Pylades and Electra, 

Ever faithful, untir'd, 

Jealous, blood-exacting friends ! 

Ye lie watching for the foe of your kin, 

In the passes of Delphi, 

In the temple -built gorge. — 

There the youngest of the band of conquerors 

Perish'd, in sight of the goal. 

Grandson follow'd sire 

The all-wept way. 


Thou tellest the fate of the last -'^tr. 4. 

Of the three Heracleidas. 

Not of him, of Cresphontes thou shared'st the lot. 

A king, a king was he while he liv'd. 

Swaying the sceptre with predestin'd hand. 

And now, minister lov'd, 

Holds rule 



Ah me . . . Ah . . . 


For the awful Monarchs below. 


Thou touchest the worst of my ills. «'^- 5. 

Oh had he fallen of old 

At the Isthmus, in fight with his foes, 

By Achaian, Arcadian spear ! 

Then had his sepulchre risen 

On the high sea-bank, in the sight 

Of either Gulf, and remain'd 

All-regarded afar, 

Noble memorial of worth 

Of a valiant Chief, to his own. 


There rose up a cry in the streets «"^ 4. 

From the terrified people. 


From the altar of Zeus, from the crowd, came a 

A blow, a blow was struck, and he fell, 
Sullying his garment with dark- streaming blood : 
While stood o'er him a Form — 
Some Form 


Ah me . . .Ah . . . 


Of a dreadful Presence of fear. 


More piercing the second cry rang, ant. 5. 

Wail'd from the palace within, , 

From the Children. . . . The Fury to them, 

Fresh from their father, draws near. 

Ah bloody axe ! dizzy blows ! 

In these ears, they thunder, they ring, 

These poor ears, still: — and these eyes 

Night and day see them fall, 


Fiery phantoms of death, 

On the fair, curl'd heads of my sons. 


Not to thee only hath come $tr. 6. 

Sorrow, O Queen, of mankind. 

Had not Eleetra to haunt 

A palace defil'd by a death unaveng'd, 

For years, in silence, devouring her heart ? 

But her nursling, her hope, came at last. 

Thou, too, rearest in joy. 

Far 'mid Arcadian hills. 

Somewhere, in safety, a nursling, a light. 

Yet, yet shall Zeus bring him home ! 

Yet shall he dawn 'on this land ! 


Him in secret, in tears, str. 7. 

Month after month, through the slow-dragging year, 
Longing, listening, I wait, I implore. 
But he comes not. What dell, 



O Erymanthus ! from sight 

Of his mother, which of thy glades, 

O Lycseus ! conceals 

The happy hunter ? He basks 

In youth's pure morning, nor thinks 

On the blood- stain'd home of his birth. 


Give not thy heart to despair. ant. 6. 

No lamentation can loose 

Prisoners of death from the grave : 

But Zeus, who accounteth thy quarrel his own, 

Still rules, still watches, and numbers the hours 

Till the sinner, the vengeance, be ripe. 

Still, by Acheron stream. 

Terrible Deities thron'd 

Sit, and make ready the serpent, the scourge. 

Still, still the Dorian boy, 

Exil'd, remembers his home. 


Him if high-ruling Zeus u?it. 7. 

JtEROPE. 35 

Bring to his mother, the rest I commit. 

Willing, patient, to Zeus, to his care. 

Blood I ask not. Enough 

Sated, and more than enough, 

Are mine eyes with blood. But if this, 

O my comforters ! strays 

Amiss from Justice, the Gods 

Forgive my folly, and work 

What they will ! — but to me give my son I 


Hear us and help us, Shade of our King ! str. 8. 


A return, O Father ! give to thy boy ! .■itr. 9. 


Send an avenger, Gods of the dead I ant. s. 


An avenger I ask not : send me my son I ant. 9. 

D 2 



O Queen, for an avenger to appear, 
Thinking that so I pray'd aright, I pray'd : 
If I pray'd wrpngly, I revoke the prayer. 


Forgive me, maidens, if I seem too slack 
In calling vengeance on a murderer's head. 
Impious I deem the alliance which he asks ; 
Requite him words severe, for seeming kind j 
And righteous, if he falls, I count his fall. 
With this, to those unbrib'd inquisitors, 
Who in man's inmost bosom sit and j udge, 
The true avengers these, I leave his deed, 
By him shown fair, but, I believe, most foul. 
If these condemn him, let them pass his doom ! 
That doom obtain effect, from Gods or men ! 
So be it ! yet will that more solace bring 
To the chaf 'd heart of eTustice than to mine. — 
To hear another tumult in these streets, 


To have another murder in these halls, 
To see another mighty victim bleed — 
There is small comfort for a woman here. 
A woman, O mj friends, has one desire — 
To see secure, to live with, those she loves. 
Can Vengeance give me back the murdered ? no ! 
Can it bring home my child ? Ah, if it can, 
I pray the Furies' ever-restless band, 
And pray the Gods, and pray the all-seeing Sun — 
" Sun, who careerest through the height of Heaven, 
When o'er the Arcadian forests thou art come. 
And seest my stripling hunter there afield, 
Put tightness in thy gold-embossed rein, 
And check thy fiery steeds, and, leaning back. 
Throw him a pealing word of summons down. 
To come, a late avenger, to the aid 
Of this poor soul who bore him, and his sire." 
If this will bring him back, be this my prayer ! — 
But Vengeance travels in a dangerous way, 


38 3IEE0PE. 

Double of issue, full of pits and snares 

For all who pass, pursuers and pursued — 

That way is dubious for a mother's prayer. 

Rather on thee I call. Husband belov'd ! — 

May Hermes, herald of the dead, convey 

My words below to thee, and make thee hear. — 

Bring back our son ! if may be, without blood ! 

Install him in thy throne, still without blood ! 

Grant him to reign there wise and just like thee, 

More fortunate than thee, more fairly judg'd ! 

This for our son : and for myself I pray, 

Soon, having once beheld hini, to descend 

Into the quiet gloom, where thou art now. 

These words to thine indulgent ear, thy wife, 

I send, and these libations pour the while. 

[ They make their offerings at the tomb. Merope 
then goes towards the palace. 


The dead hath now his offerings duly paid. 
But whither go'st thou hence, Queen, away ? 



To receive Areas, who to-clay should come, 
Bringing me of my boy the annual news. 


No certain news if like the rest it run. 


Certain in this, that 'tis uncertain still. 


What keeps him in Arcadia from return ? 


His grandsire and his uncles fear the risk. 


Of what ? it lies with them to make risk none. 


Discovery of a visit made by stealth. 

D 4 

40 3IER0PE. 


With arms then they should send him, not by stealth. 


With arms they dare not, and by stealth they fear. 


I doubt their caution little suits their ward. 


The heart of youth I know ; that most I fear. 


I augur thou wilt hear some bold resolve. 


I dare not wish it ; but, at least, to hear 
That my son still survives, in health, in bloom ; 
To hear that still he loves, still longs for, me ; 
Yet, with a light uncareworn spirit, turns 


Quick from distressful thought, and floats in joy — 
Thus much from Areas, my old servant true, 
Who sav'd him from these murderous halls a babe, 
And since has fondly watch'd him night and day 
Save for this annual charge, I hope to hear. 
If this be all, I know not ; but I know, 
These many years I live for this alone. 

[Merope goes in. 


Much is there which the Sea ^^f. i. 

Conceals from man, who cannot plumb its depths. 

Air to his unwing'd form denies a way. 

And keeps its liquid solitudes unscaFd. 

Even Earth, whereon he treads. 

So feeble is his march, so slow. 

Holds countless tracts untrod. 

But, more than all unplumb'd, ant. ). 

Unscal'd, untrodden, is the heart of Man. 


More than all secrets hid, the way it keeps. 
Nor any of our organs so obtuse, 
Inaccurate, and frail, 
As those with which we try to test 
Feelings and motives there. 

Yea, and not only have we not explor'd str. 2. 

That wide and various world, the heart of others. 
But even our own heart, that narrow world 
Bounded in our own breast, we hardly know, 
Of our own actions dimly trace the causes. 
Whether a natural obscureness, hiding 
That region in perpetual cloud, 
Or our own want of effort, be the bar. 

Therefore — while acts are from their motives 
judg'd, ant. 2. 

And to one act many most unlike motives, 
This pure, that guilty, may have each impell'd — 
Power fails us to try clearly if that cause 
Assign'd us by the actor be the true one : 


Power fails the man himself to fix distinctly 
The cause which drew him to his deed, 
And stamp himself, thereafter, bad or good. 

The most are bad, wise men have said. str. 3. 

Let the best rule, they say again. 

The best, then, to dominion have the right. 

Rights unconceded and denied. 

Surely, if rights, may be by force asserted — 

May be, nay should, if for the general weal. 

The best, then, to the throne may carve his way, 

And hew opposers down, 

Free from all guilt of lawlessness. 

Or selfish lust of personal power : 

Bent only to serve Virtue, 

Bent to diminish wrong. 

And truly, in this ill-rul'd world, ant. 3. 

Well sometimes may the good desire 
To give to Virtue her dominion due. 


Well may they long to interrupt 

The reign of Folly, usurpation ever, 

Though fenc'd by sanction of a thousand years. 

Well thirst to drao; the wronojful ruler down. 

Well purpose to pen back 

Into the narrow path of right, 

The ignorant, headlong multitude, 

Who blindly follow ever 

Blind leaders, to their bane. 

But who can say, without a fear, ^^r. 4. 

That best, who ought to rule, am I ; 

The mob, who ought to obey, are these; 

I the one righteous, they the many bad? — 

Who, without check of conscience, can aver 

That he to power makes way by arms, 

Sheds blood, imprisons, banishes, attaints, 

Commits all deeds the guilty oftenest do, 

Without a single guilty thought, 

Arm'd for right only, and the general good ? 


Therefore, with censure un allay 'd. ant. 4. 

Therefore, with unexeepting ban, 

Zeus and pure-thoughted Justice brand 

Imperious self-asserting Violence. 

Sternly condemn the too bold man, who dares 

Elect himself Heaven's destin'd arm. 

And, knowing well man's inmost heart infirm, 

However noble the committer be, 

His grounds however specious shown, 

Turn with averted eyes from deeds of blood. 

Thus, though a woman, I was school'd epode. 

By those whom I revere. 

Whether I learnt their lessons well, 

Or, having learnt them, well apply 

To what hath in this house befall'n. 

If in the event be any proof. 

The event will quickly show. 


[-^Epytus comes in. 

Maidens, assure me if they told me true 
Who told me that the royal house was here. 


Rightly they told thee, and thou art arrived. 


Here, then, it is, where Polyphontes dwells ? 


He doth : thou hast both house and master right. 

^PYTUS. • 

Might some one straight inform him he is sought ? 


Inform him that thyself, for here he comes. 


[PoLTPHONTES comes forth, with Attendants and Guards. 

O King, all hail ! I come with weighty news : 
Most likely, grateful ; but, in all case, sure. 


Speak them, that I may judge their kind myself. 


Accept them in one word, for good or bad : 
^pytus, the Messenian prince, is dead ! 


Dead! — and when died he? where? and by what 

hand ? 
And who art thou, who bringest me such news ? 


He perish'd in Arcadia, where he liv'd 
With Cypselus ; and two days since he died. 
One of the train of Cypselus am I. 



Instruct me of the manner of his death. 


That will I do, and to this end I came. 

For, being of like age, of birth not mean, 

The son of an Arcadian noble, I 

Was chosen his companion from a boy ; 

And on the hunting-rambles which his heart, 

Unquiet, drove him ever to pursue, 

Through all the lordships of the Arcadian dales. 

From chief to chief, I wander'd at his side. 

The captain of his squires, and his guard. 

On such a hunting-journey, three morns since. 

With beaters, hounds, and huntsmen, he and I 

Set forth from Tegea, the royal town. 

The prince at start seem'd sad, but his regard 

Clear'd with blithe travel and the morning air. 

We rode from Tegea, through the woods of oaks, 

Past Arne spring, where Rhea gave the babe 

MEROPE. * 49 

Poseidon to the shepherd-boys to hide 

From Saturn's search among the new-yean'd lambs, 

To Mantinea, with its unbak'd walls ; 

Thence, by the Sea- God's Sanctuary, and the tomb 

Whither from wintry Maenalus were brought 

The bones of Areas, whence our race is nam'd, 

On, to the marshy Orchomenian plain. 

And the Stone Coffins ; — then, by Caphyae Cliffs, 

To Pheneos with its craggy citadel. 

There, with the chief of that hill-town, we lodg'd 

One night ; and the next day, at dawn, far'd on 

By the Three Fountains and the Adder's Hill 

To the Stymphalian Lake, our journey's end, 

To draw the coverts on Cyllene's side. 

There, on a grassy spur which bathes its root 

Far in the liquid lake, we sate, and drew 

Gates from our hunters' pouch. Arcadian fare. 

Sweet chestnuts, barley-cakes, and boar's-flesh dried : 

And as we ate, and rested there, we talk'd 

Of places we had pass'd, sport we had had, 


50 • MEROPE. 

Of beasts of chase that haunt the Arcadian hills 

Wild hog, and bear, and mountain-deer, and roe : 

Last, of our quarters with the Arcadian chiefs. 

For courteous entertainment, welcome warm, 

Sad, reverential homage, had our prince 

From all, for his great lineage and his woes : 

All which he own'd, and prais'd with grateful mind. 

But still over his speech a gloom there hung. 

As of one shadow'd by impending death ; 

And strangely, as we talk'd, he would apply 

The story of spots mention'd to his own : 

Telling us, Arne minded him, he too 

Was sav'd a babe, but to a life obscure, 

Which he, the seed of Hercules, dragg'd on 

Inglorious, and should drop at last unknown, 

Even as those dead unepitaph'd, who lie 

In the stone coffins at Orchomenus. 

And, then, he bade remember how we pass'd 

The Mantinean Sanctuary, forbid 

To foot of mortal, where his ancestor. 


Nam'd iEpytus like him, having gone in, 
Was blinded by the outgushing springs of brine. 
Then, turning westward to the Adder's Hill — 
Another ancestor, nam'd, too, like me, 
Died of a snake-bite, said he, on that brow : 
Still at his mountain tomb men marvel, built 
Where, as life ebVd, his bearers laid him doivn. 
So he play'd on ; then ended, with a smile — 
This region is not happy for my race. 
We cheer'd him ; but, that moment, from the copse 
By the lake-edge, broke the sharp cry of hounds ; 
The prickers shouted that the stag was gone : 
We sprang upon our feet, we snatch'd our spears, 
We bounded down the swarded slope, we plung'd 
Through the dense ilex-thickets to the dogs. 
Far in the woods ahead their music rang ; 
And many times that morn we cours'd in ring 
The forests round which belt Cyllene's side ; 
Till I, thrown out and tired, came to halt 
On the same spur where we had sate at morn. 

£ 2 


And resting there to breathe, I saw below 

Rare, straggling hunters, foil'd by brake and crag, 

And the prince, single, pressing on the rear 

Of that unflagging quarry and the hounds. 

Now, in the woods far down, I saw them cross 

An open glade ; now he was high aloft 

On some tall scar fring'd with dark feathery pines, 

Peering to spy a goat-track down the cliff, 

Cheering with hand, and voice, and horn his dogs. 

At last the cry drew to the water's edge — 

And through the brushwood, to the pebbly strand. 

Broke, black with sweat, the antler'd mountain stag. 

And took the lake : two hounds alone pursued ; 

Then came the prince — he shouted and plung'd in. — 

There is a chasm rifted in the base* 

Of that unfooted precipice, whose rock 

Walls on one side the deep Stymphalian Lake : 

There the lake-waters, which in ages gone 

Wash'd, as the marks upon the hills still show, 

All the Stymphalian plain, are now suck'd down. 


A headland, with one aged plane-tree crown'd, 
Parts from the cave-pierc'd cliff the shelving bay 
Where first the chase plung'd in : the bay is smooth, 
But round the headland's point a current sets. 
Strong, black, tempestuous, to the cavern-mouth. 
Stoutly, under the headland's lee, they swam : 
But when they came abreast the point, the race 
Caught them, as wind takes feathers, whirl'd them 

Struggling in vain to cross it, swept them on, 
Stag, dogs, and hunter, to the yawning gulph. 
All this, O King, not piecemeal, as to thee 
Now told, but in one flashing instant pass'd : 
While from the turf whereon I lay I sprang. 
And took three strides, quarry and dogs were gone ; 
A moment more — I saw the prince turn round 
Once in the black and arrowy race, and cast 
One arm aloft for help ; then sweep beneath 
The low-brow'd cavern-arch, and disappear. 
And what I could, I did — to call by cries 

£ 3 


Some straggling hunters to my aid, to rouse 

Fishers who live on the lake-side, to launch 

Boats, and approach, near as we dar'd, the chasm. 

But of the prince nothing remain'd, save this, 

His boar-spear's broken shaft, back on the lake 

Cast by the rambling subterranean stream ; 

And this, at landing spied by us and sav'd. 

His broad-brimm'd hunter's hat, which, in the bay, 

Where first the stag took water, floated stiU. 

And I across the mountains brought with haste 

To Cypselus, at Basilis, this news : 

Basilis, his new city, which he now 

Near Lycosura builds, Lycaon's town, 

First city founded on the earth by men. 

He to thee sends me on, in one thing glad 

\yhile all else grieves him, that his grandchild's 

Extinguishes distrust 'twixt him and thee. 
But I from our deplor'd mischance learn this — 
The man who to untimely death is doom'd, 


Vainly you hedge him from the assault of harm ; 
He bears the seed of ruin in himself. 


So dies the last shoot of our royal tree ! 
Who shall tell Merope this heavy news ? 


Stranger, the news thou bringest is too great 

For instant comment, having many sides 

Of import, and in silence best receiv'd, 

Whether it turn at last to joy or woe. 

But thou, the zealous bearer, hast no part 

In what it has of painful, whether now, 

First heard, or in its future issue shown. 

Thou for thy labour hast deserv'd our best 

Refreshment, needed by thee, as I judge, 

With mountain-travel and night-watching spent. — 

To the guest-chamber lead him, some one ! give 

All entertainment which a traveller needs, 

E 4 


And such as fits a royal house to show : 

To friends, still more, and labourers in our cause. 

[Attendants conditct -^pttus within the palace. 


The youth is gone within ; alas ! he bears 

A presence sad for some one through those doors. 


Admire then, maidens, how in one short hour 
The schemes, pursued in vain for twenty years, 
Are by a stroke, though undesir'd, complete, 
Crown'd with success, not in my way, but Heaven's ! 
This at a moment, too, when I had urg'd 
A last, long-cherish'd project, in my aim 
Of concord, and been baffled with disdain. 
Fair terms of reconcilement, equal rule, 
I ofFer'd to my foes, and they refus'd : 
Worse terms than mine they have obtained from 


Dire is this blow for Merope ; and I 
Wish'd, truly wish'd, solution to our broil 
Other than by this death : but it hath come ! 
I speak no word of boast, but this I say, 
A private loss here founds a nation's peace. 

[POLTPHONTES yoes out, 


Peace, who tarriest too long ; sir. 5. 

Peace, -with Delight in thy train ; 

Come, come back to our prayer ! 

Then shall the revel asrain 

Visit our streets, and the sound 

Of the harp be heard with the pipe. 

When the flashing torches appear 

In the marriage -train coming on, 

With dancing maidens and boys : 

While the matrons come to the doors. 

And the old men rise from their bench, 

When the youths bring home the bride. 


Not decried by my voice ant. 

He who restores thee shall be, 

Not unfavour'd by Heaven. 

Surely no sinner the man, 

Dread though his acts, to whose hand 

Such a boon to bring hath been given. 

Let her come, fair Peace ! let her come ! 

But the demons long nourish'd here, 

Murder, Discord, and Hate, 

In the stormy desolate waves 

Of the Thracian Sea let her leave, 

Or the howling outermost Main. 

[Merope comes forth. 


A whisper through the palace flies of one 

Arriv'd from Tegea with weighty news ; 

And I came, thinking to find Areas here. 

Ye have not left this gate, which he must pass : 

Tell me — hath one not come ? or, worse mischance, 

Come, but been intercepted by the King ? 



A messenger, sent from Arcadia here, 
Arriv'd, and of the King had speech but now. 


Ah me ! the wrong expectant got his news. 


The message brought was for the King design'd. 


How so ? was Areas not the messenger ? 


A younger man, and of a different name. 


And what Arcadian news had he to tell ? 


Learn that from other lips, Queen, than mine. 



He kept his tale, then, for the King alone ? 


His tale was meeter for that ear than thine. 


Why dost thou falter, and make half reply ? 


O thrice unhappy, how I groan thy fate ! 


Thou frightenest and confound'st me by thy words. 
O were but Areas come, all would be well ! 


If so, all's well : for look, the old man speeds 
Up from the city tow'rds this gated hill. 

[Arcas comes in. 



Not with the failing breath and foot of age 

My faithful follower comes. Welcome, old friend ! 


Faithful, not welcome, when my tale is told. 
O that my over-speed and bursting grief 
Had on the journey chok'd my labouring breath, 
And lock'd my speech for ever in my breast ! 
Yet then another man would bring this news. — 
O honour'd Queen, thy son, my charge, is gone. 


Too suddenly thou tellest such a loss. 

Look up, O Queen ! look up, O mistress dear ! 

Look up, and see thy friends who comfort thee. 


Ah . . . Ah . . . Ah me ! 



And I, too, say, ah me ! 


Forgive, forgive the bringer of such news ! 


Better from thine than from an enemy's tongue. 


And yet no enemy did this, Queen: 

But the wit-baffling will and hand of Heaven. 


No enemy ! and what hast thou, then, heard ? 
Swift as I came, hath Falsehood been before ? 


A youth arriv'd but now, the son, he said, 
Of an Arcadian lord, our prince's friend. 


Jaded with travel, clad in hunter's garb. 

He brought report that his own eyes had seen 

The prince, in chase after a swimming stag, 

Swept down a chasm broken in the cliff 

Which hangs o'er the Stymphalian Lake, and drown'd. 


Ah me ! with what a foot doth Treason post, 
While Loyalty, with all her speed, is slow ! 
Another tale, I trow, thy messenger 
For the King's private ear reserves, like this 
In one thing only, that the prince is dead. 


And how then runs this true and private tale ? 


As much to the King's wish, more to his shame. 
This young Arcadian noble, guard and mate 
To ^pytus, the king seduc'd with gold, 


And had him at the prince's side in leash, 
Ready to slip on his unconscious prey. 
He on a hunting party three days since, 
Among the forests on Cyllene's side, 
Perform'd good service for his bloody wage ; 
The prince, his uncle Laias, whom his ward 
Had in a father's place, he basely murder'd. 
Take this for true, the other tale for feign'd. 


And this perfidious murder who reveal'd ? 


The faithless murderer's own, no other tongue. 


Did conscience goad him to denounce himself ? 


To Cypselus at Basilis he brought 

This strange unlikely tale, the prince was drown'd. 



But not a word appears of murder here. 


Examin'd close, he own'd this story false. 
Then evidence came — his comrades of the hunt, 
Who saw the prince and Laias last with him. 
Never again in life — next, agents, fee'd 
To ply 'twixt the Messenian king and him, 
Spoke, and reveal'd that traffic, and the traitor. 
So charg'd, he stood dumb-founder'd : Cypselus, 
On this suspicion, cast him into chains. 
Thence he escap'd — and next I find him here. 


His presence with the King, thou mean'st, implies - 


He comes to tell his prompter he hath sped. 



Still he repeats the drowning story here. 


To thee — that needs no QEdipus to explain. 


Interpref, then ; for we, it seems, are dull. 


Your King desir'd the profit of his death, 

Not the black credit of his murderer. 

That stern word " murder " had too dread a sound 

For the Messenian hearts, who lov'd the prince. 


Suspicion grave I see, but no clear proof. 


Peace ! peace ! all's clear. — The wicked watch and 

While the good sleep : the workers have the day. 

MEROPE. 6 / 

He who was sent hath sped, and now comes back. 
To chuckle with his sender o'er the game 
Which foolish innocence plays with subtle guilt. 
Ah ! now I comprehend the liberal grace 
Of this far-scheming tyrant, and his boon 
Of heirship to his kingdom for my son : 
He had his murderer ready, and the sword 
Lifted, and that unwish'd-for heirship void — 
A tale, meanwhile, forg'd for his subjects' ears : 
And me, henceforth sole rival with himself 
In their allegiance, me, in my son's death -hour. 
When all turn'd tow'rds me, me he would have shown 
To my Messenians, dup'd, disarm'd, despis'd, 
The willing sharer of his guilty rule, 
All claim to succour forfeit, to myself 
Hateful, by each Messenian heart abhorr'd. — 
His offers I repelled — but what of that ? 
If with no rage, no fire of righteous hate, 
Such as ere now hath spurr'd to fearful deeds 
Weak women with a thousandth part my wrongs, 

F 2 


But calm, but unresentful, I endur'd 

His offers, coldly heard them, cold repell'd ? 

While all this time I bear to linger on 

In this blood-delug'd palace, in whose halls 

Either a vengeful Fury I should stalk, 

Or else not live at all — but here I haunt, 

A pale, unmeaning ghost, powerless to fright 

Or harm, and nurse my longing for my son, 

A helpless one, I know it : — but the Gods 

Have temper'd me e'en thus ; and, in some souls, 

Misery, which rouses others, breaks the spring. 

And even now, my son, ah me ! my son, 

Fain would I fade away, as I have liv'd, 

AVithout a cry, a struggle, or a blow. 

All vengeance unattempted, and d«scend 

To the invisible plains, to roam with thee, 

Fit denizen, the lampless under-world 

But with what eyes should I encounter there 
My husband, wandering with his stern compeers, 
Amphiaraos, or Mycenae's king, 


Who led the Greeks to Ilium, Agamemnon, 
Betray'd like him, but, not like him, aveng'd ? 
Or with what voice shall I the questions meet 
Of my two elder sons, slain long ago, 
Who sadly ask me, what, if not revenge, 
Kept me, their mother, from their side so long ? 
Or how reply to thee, my child, last-born, 
Last-murder'd, who reproachfully wilt say — 
Mother y I well believed thou lived' st on 
In the detested palace of thy foe, 
With patience on thy face, death in thy heart, 
Counting, till I grew up, the laggard years, 
That our joint hands might then together pay 
To one unhappy house the debt lue oive. 
My death makes my debt void, and doubles thine — 
But down thoufleest here, and leav'st our scourge 
Triumphant, and condemnest all our race 
To lie in gloom for ever unappeus d. 
What shall I have to answer to such words ? — 
No, something must be dar'd ; and, great as erst 

F 3 


Our dastard patience, be our daring now ! 
Come, ye swift Furies, who to liim ye haunt 
Permit no peace till your behests are done ; 
Come Hermes, who dost watch the unjustly kill'd. 
And can'st teach simple ones to plot and feign ; 
Come, lightning Passion, that with foot of fire 
Advancest to the middle of a deed 
Almost before 'tis plann'd ; come, glowing Hate ; 
Come, baneful Mischief, from thy murky den 
Under the dripping black Tartarean cliff 
Which Styx's awful waters trickle down — 
Inspire this coward heart, this flagging arm ! 
How say ye, maidens, do ye know these prayers ? 
Are these words Merope's — is this voice mine ? 
Old man, old man, thou had'st my lioy in charge, 
And he is lost, and thou hast that to atone. 
Fly, find me on the instant where confer 
The murderer and his impious setter-on : 
And ye, keep faithful silence, friends, and mark 
^yhat one weak woman can achieve alone. 



mistress, by the Gods, do nothing rash I 


Unfaithful servant, dost thou, too, desert me ? 


1 go ! I go ! — yet, Queen, take this one word : 
Attempting deeds beyond thy power to do. 
Thou nothing profitest thy friends, but mak'st 
Our misery more, and thine own ruin sure. 

[Arcas goes out. 

I have heard, O Queen, how a prince, str. i. 

Agamemnon's son, in Mycenae, 
Orestes, died but in name, 
Liv'd for the death of his foes. 

F 4 


Peace ! 


What is it ? 


Thou destroyest me ! 



How ? 


Whispering hope of a life 
Which no stranger unknown, 
But the faithful servant and guard, 
Whose tears warrant his truth. 
Bears sad witness is lost. 


Wheresoever men are, there is grief. ««'• l- 


In a thousand countries, a thousand 
Homes, e'en now is there wail ; 
Mothers lamenting their sons. 




Thou knowest it ? 


Who lives, witnesses. 




But, is it only a fate 
Sure, all-common, to lose 


In a land of friends, by a friend, 
One last, murder-sav'd child ? 


Ah me ! str. 2. 


Thou confesses! the prize 

In the rushing, thundering, mad, 

Cloud-envelop'd, obscure, 

Unapplauded, unsung 

Race of calamity, mine ? 


None can truly claim that 
Mournful preeminence, not 


Fate gfives it, ah me ! 



Not, above all, in the doubts, 
Double and clashing, that hang— 


What then ? ant. 2. 

Seems it lighter, my loss, 

If, perhaps, unpierc'd by the sword, 

My child lies in a jagg'd 

Sunless prison of rocks, 

On the black wave borne to and fro ? 


Worse, far worse, if his friend, 
If the Arcadian within, 

MEROPE (with a start). 
How say'st thou ? within ? . . . 



He in the guest-chamber now, 
Faithlessly murder'd his friend. 


Ye, too, ye, too, join to betray, then. 
Your Queen ! 


What is this ? 


Ye knew, 
O false friends ! into what 
Haven the murderer had dropp'd ? 
Ye kept silence ? 


In fear, 


lov'd mistress ! in fear, 
Dreading thine over-wrought mood, 
What I knew, I conceal'd. 


Swear by the Gods henceforth to obey me ! 


Unhappy one^ what deed 
Purposes thy despair ? 

1 promise ; but I fear. 


From the altar, the unaveng'd tomb, 

Fetch me the sacrifice-axe ! 

[The Chorus goes towards the tomb of Cresphontes, and 
their leader brings back the axe. 

O Husband, cloth'd 

With the grave's everlasting. 

All-covering darkness ! O King, 

Well mourn'd, but ill-aveng'd ! 


Appro v'st thou thy wife now ?■ 
The axe ! — who brings it ? 


'Tis here ! 
But thy gesture, thy look, 
Apj)als me, shakes me with awe. 


Thrust back now the bolt of that door ! 


Alas ! alas ! — 

Behold the fastenings withdrawn 

Of the guest-chamber door ! — 

Ah ! I beseech thee — with tears— — 


Throw the door open ! 


'Tis done! . . 


[The door of the house is thrown open : the interior of the 
guest-chamber is discovered, with -/Epytus asleep on a couch. 

He sleeps — sleeps calm. ye all-seeing Gods ! 
Thus peacefully do ye let sinners sleep, 
While troubled innocents toss, and lie awake ? 
What sweeter sleep than this could I desire 
For thee, my child, if thou wert yet alive ? 
How often have I dream'd of thee like this. 
With thy soil'd hunting-coat, and sandals torn, 
Asleep in the Arcadian glens at noon. 
Thy head droop'd softly, and the golden curls 
Clustering o'er thy white forehead, like a girl's ; 
The short proud lip showing thy race, thy cheeks 
Brown'd with thine open-air, free, hunter's life. 
Ah me ! . . . 

And where dost thou sleep now, my innocent boy ? — 
In some dark fir-tree's shadow, amid rocks 
Untrodden, on Cyllene's desolate side ; 


Where travellers never pass, where only come 
Wild beasts, and vultures sailing overhead. 
There, there thou liest now, my hapless child ! 
Stretch'd among briars and stones, the slow, black 

Oozing through thy soak'd hunting-shirt, with limbs 
Yet stark from the death-struggle, tight-clench'd 

And eyeballs staring for revenge in vain. 
Ah miserable ! . . . 

And thou, thou fair-skinn'd Serpent ! thou art laid 
In a rich chamber, on a happy bed, 
In a king's house, thy victim's heritage ; 
And drink'st untroubled slumber, to sleep off 
The toils of thy foul service, till thou wake 
Refresh'd, and claim thy master's thanks and gold. — 
Wake up in hell from thine unhallow'd sleep, 
Thou smiling Fiend, and claim thy guerdon there ! 
Wake amid gloom, and howling, and the noise 
Of sinners pinion'd on the torturing wheel, 


And the stanch Furies' never-silent scourge. 
And bid the chief-tormentors there provide 
For a grand culprit shortly coming down. 
Go thou the first, and usher in thy lord ! 
A more just stroke than that thou gav'st my son, 

[Merope advances towards the sleeping ^pytus, icith the 
axe uplifted. At the same mo}ne7it Arcas returns. 

ARCAS (to the Chorus). 

Not with him to council did the Kinsc 
Carry his messenger, but left him here. 

[^Sees jVIeeope and ^pttus. 
Gods ! . . . 


Foolish old man, thou spoil'st my blow ! 


What do I see ? . . . 

82 3IER0PE. 


A murderer at death's door. 

Therefore no words ! 


A murderer ? . , . 


And a captive 
To the dear next-of-kin of him he murder'd. 
Stand, and let vengeance pass ! 


Hold, O Queen, hold ! 
Thou know'st not whom thou strik'st. . . . 


I know his crime. 


Unhappy one ! thou strik'st 



A most just blow. 


No, by the Gods, tliou slay'st- 


Stand off ! 


Thy son I 

Ah ! . . . . \_She lets the axe drop, and falls insensible. 

^PYTUS (awaking). 
Who are these ? What shrill, ear-piercing scream 
Wakes me thus kindly from the perilous sleep 
Wherewith fatigue and youth had bound mine eyes, 
Even in the deadly palace of my foe ? — 
Areas ! Thou here ? 

G 2 


AKCAS (embracing him). 

O my dear master ! O 
My child, my charge belov'd, welcome to life ! 
As dead we held thee, mourn'd for thee as dead. 


In word I died, that I in deed might live. 
But who are these ? 


Messenian maidens, friends. 


And, Areas ! — but I tremble ! 


Boldly ask. 


That black-rob'd, swooning figure ? . . . 

ilEROPE. 85 




O motlier ! mother ! 


Who upbraids me ? Ah I , , . 
[^seeing the axe. 


Upbraids thee ? no one. 


Thou dost well : but take . 


What wav'st thou oif ? 


That murderous axe away ! 
G 3 

86 ilEROPE. 


Thy son is here. 


One said so, sure, but now. 


Here, here thou hast him ! 


Slaughter'd by this hand I 


No, by the Gods, alive and like to live 1 


What, thou ? — I dream 


May'st thou dream ever so ! 


MEROPE (advancing towards him). 
My child ? unhurt ? . . . 


Only by overjoy. 


Art thou, then, come ? . . . 


Never to part again. 
l^They fall into one another'' s arms. Then Merope, holding 
-^PYTCS by the hand, turns to The Chorus. 


O kind Messenian maidens, O my friends, 
Bear witness, see, mark well, on what a head 
My first stroke of revenge had nearly fallen ! 



We see, dear mistress : and we say, the Gods, 
As hitherto they kept him, keep him now. 




my son ! str. 

1 have, I have thee .... the years 
Fly back, my child I and thou seem'st 
Ne'er to have gone from these eyes, 
Never been torn from this breast. 


^Mother, my heart runs over : but the time 
Presses me, chides me, will not let me weep. 


Fearcst thou now ? 


I fear not, but I think on my design. 


At the undried fount of this breast, 
A babe, thou smilest again. 


Thy brothers play at my feet, 
Early-slain innocents ! near, 
Thy kind-speaking father stands. 


Remember, to revenge his death I come ! 


All . . . revenge ! <*»'• 

That word ! it kills me ! I see 
Once more roll back on my house, 
Never to ebb, the accurs'd 
All-flooding ocean of blood. 


Mother, sometimes the justice of the Gods 
Appoints the way to peace through shedding blood. 


Sorrowful peace ! 



And jet the only peace to us allow'd. 


From the first-wrought vengeance is born 

A long succession of crimes. 

Fresh blood flows, calling for blood : 

Fathers, sons, grandsons, are all 

One death-dealinor vengeful train. 


Mother, thy fears are idle : for I come 

To close an old wound, not to open new. 

In all else willing to be taught, in this 

Instruct me not ; I have my lesson clear. — 

Areas, seek out my uncle Laias, now 

Concerting in the city with our friends ; 

Here bring him, ere the king come back from 

council : 
That, how to accomplish what the Gods enjoin, 


And the slow-ripening time at last prepares, 
We two with thee, my mother, may consult : 
For whose help dare I count on if not thine ? 


Approves my brother Laias this design ? 


Yes, and alone is with me here to share. 


And what of thine Arcadian mate, who bears 
Suspicion from thy grandsire of thy death. 
For whom, as I suppose, thou passest here ? 


Sworn to our plot he is : but, that surmise 
Fix'd him the author of my death, I knew not. 


Proof, not surmise, shows him in commerce close 



With this Messenian tyrant — that I know, 


And entertain'st thou, child, such dangerous friends ? 


This commerce for my best behoof he plies. 


That thou may'st read thine enemy's counsel plain ? 


Too dear his secret wiles have cost our liouse. 


And of his unsure agent what demands he ? 


News of my business, pastime, temper, friends. 



His messages, then, point not to thy murder ? 


Not yet ; though such, no doubt, his final aim. 


And what Arcadian helpers bring'st thou here ? 


Laias alone ; no errand mine for crowds. 


On what relying, to crush such a foe ? 


One sudden stroke, and the Messenians' love. 


thou long-lost, long seen in dreams alone, 
But now seen face to face, my only child ! 


Why wilt thou fly to lose as soon as found 
My new-won treasure, thy beloved life ? 
Or how expectest not to lose, who com'st 
With such slight means to cope with such a foe ? 
Thine enemy thou know'st not, nor his strength. 
The stroke thou purposest is desperate, rash — 
Yet grant that it succeeds ;' — thou hast behind 
The stricken king a second enemy 
Scarce dangerous less than him, the Dorian lords. 
These are not now the savage band who erst 
FoUow'd thy father from their northern hills. 
Mere ruthless and uncounsell'd tools of war. 
Good to obey, without a leader nought. 
Their chief hath train'd them, made them like him- 
Sagacious, men of iron, watchful, firm, 
Against surprise and sudden panic proof : 
Their master fall'n, these will not flinch, but band 
To keep their master's power : thou wilt find 
Behind his corpse their hedge of serried spears. 

ME ROPE. 95 

But, to match these, thou hast the people's love ? 

On what a reed, my child, thou leanest there ! 

Knowest thou not how timorous, how unsure, 

How useless an ally a people is 

Against the one and certain arm of power ? 

Thy father perish'd in this people's cause, 

Perish'd before their eyes, yet no man stirr'd : 

For years, his widow, in their sight I stand, 

A never-changing index to revenge — 

What help, what vengeance, at their hands have I ? — 

At least, if thou wilt trust them, try them first : 

Against the King himself array the host 

Thou countest on to back thee 'gainst his lords : 

First rally the Messenians to thy cause. 

Give them cohesion, purpose, and resolve, 

Marshal them to an army — then advance, 

Then try the issue ; and not, rushing on 

Single and friendless, throw to certain death 

That dear-belov'd, that young, that gracious head. 

Be guided, my son ! spurn counsel not : 


For know thou this, a violent heart hath been 
Fatal to all the race of Hercules. 


With sage experience she speaks ; and thou, 
O -^pytus, weigh well her counsel given. 


Ill counsel, in my judgment, gives she here, 
Maidens, and reads experience much amiss ; 
Discrediting the succour which our cause 
Might from the people draw, if rightly us'd : 
Advising us a course which would, indeed. 
If followed, make their succour slack and null. 
A people is no army, train'd to fight, 
A passive engine, at their general's will ; 
And, if so us'd, proves, as thou say'st, unsure. 
A people, like a common man, is dull. 
Is lifeless, while its heart remains untouch'd ; 
A fool can drive it, and a fly may scare : 


When it admires and loves, its heart awakes ; 

Then irresistibly it lives, it works : 

A people, then, is an ally indeed ; 

It is ten thousand fiery wills in one. 

Now I, if I invite them to run risk 

Of life for my advantage, and myself. 

Who chiefly profit, run no more than they — 

How shall I rouse their love, their ardour so ? 

But, if some signal, unassisted stroke. 

Dealt at my own sole risk, before their eyes, 

Announces me their rightful prince return'd — 

The undegenerate blood of Hercules — 

The daring claimant of a perilous throne — 

How might not such a sight as this revive 

Their loyal passion tow'rd my father's house ? 

Electrify their hearts ? make them no more 

A craven mob, but a devouring fire ? 

Then might I use them, then, for one who thus 

Spares not himself, themselves they will not spare. 



Haply, had but one daring soul stood forth 

To rally them and lead them to revenge, 

When my great father fell, they had replied : — 

Alas I our foe alone stood forward then. 

And thou, my mother, hadst thou made a sign — 

Hadst thou, from thy forlorn and captive state 

Of widowhood in these polluted halls. 

Thy prison-house, rais'd one imploring cry — 

Who knows but that avengers thou hadst found ? 

But mute thou sat'st, and each Messenian heart 

In thy despondency desponded too. 

Enough of this ! — though not a finger stir 

To succour me in my extremest need ; 

Though all free spirits in this land be dead, 

And only slaves and tyrants left alive — 

Yet for me, mother, I had liefer die 

On native ground, than drag the tedious hours 

Of a protected exile any more. 

Hate, duty, interest, passion call one way : 

Here stand I now, and the attempt shall be. 



Prudence is on the other side ; but deeds 
Condemn'd by prudence have sometimes gone well. 


Not till the ways of prudence all are tried, 
And tried in vain, the turn of rashness comes. 
Thou leapest to thy deed, and hast not ask'd 
Thy kinsfolk and thy father's friends for aid. 


And to what friends should I for aid apply ? 


The royal race of Temenus, in Argos 


That house, like ours, intestine murder maims. 


Thy Spartan cousins, Procles and his brother - 


100 MEROPE. 


Love a won cause, but not a cause to win, 


My father, then, and his Arcadian chiefs - 


Mean still to keep aloof from Dorian broil. 


Wait, then, until sufficient help appears. 


Orestes in Mycense had no more. 


He to fulfil an order rais'd his hand. 


What order more precise had he than I ? 

MEEOPE. 101 


Apollo peal'd it from his Delphian cave. 


A mother's murder needed hest divine. 


He had a hest, at least, and thou hast none. 


The Gods command not where the heart speaks clear. 


Thou wilt destroy, I see, thyself and us. 


O suffering ! calamity ! how ten, 
How twentyfold worse are ye, when your blows 
Not only wound the sense, but kill the soul, 
The noble thought, which is alone the man ! 

H 3 

102 MEROPE. 

That I, to-day returning, find myself 

Orplian'd of both my parents — by his foes 

My father, by your strokes my mother slain ! — 

For this is not my mother, who dissuades, 

At the dread altar of her husband's tomb. 

His son from vengeance on his murderer ; 

And not alone dissuades him, but compares 

His just revenge to an unnatural deed, 

A deed so awful, that the general tongue 

Fluent of horrors, falters to relate it — 

Of darkness so tremendous, that its author. 

Though to his act empower'd, nay, impell'd, 

By the oracular sentence of the Gods, 

Fled, for years after, o'er the face of earth, 

A frenzied wanderer, a God-driven man, 

And hardly yet, some say, hath found a grave — 

With such a deed as this thou matchest mine, 

Which Nature sanctions, which the innocent blood 

Clamours to find fulfiU'd, which good men praise, 

And only bad men joy to see undone ? 

MEROPE. 103 

O honour'd father ! hide thee in thy grave 
Deep as thou canst, for hence no succour comes ; 
Since from thy faithful subjects what revenge 
Canst thou expect, when thus thy widow fails ? 
Alas ! an adamantine strength indeed, 
Past expectation, hath thy murderer built : 
For this is the true strength of guilty kings, 
When they corrupt the souls of those they rule. 


Zeal makes him most unjust : but, in good time- 
Here, as I guess, the noble Laias comes. 


Break off, break off your talking, and depart 
Each to his post, where the occasion calls ; 
Lest from the council-chamber presently 
The King return, and find you prating here. 
A time will come for greetings ; but to-day 
The hour for words is gone, is come for deeds. 


104 MEROPE. 


princely Laias ! to what purpose calls 
The occasion, if our chief confederate fails ? 
My mother stands aloof, and blames our deed. 


My royal sister ? ... but, without some cause, 

1 know, she honours not the dead so ill. 


Brother, it seems thy sister must present. 

At this first meeting after absence long, 

Not welcome, exculpation to her kin : 

Yet exculpation needs it, if I seek, 

A woman and a mother, to avert 

Risk from my new-restor'd, my only son ? — 

Sometimes, when he was gone, I wish'd him back. 

Risk what he might ; now that I have him here, 

Now that I feed mine eyes on that young face. 

Hear that fresh voice, and clasp that gold lockM head, 

MEROPE. 105 

I shudder, Laias, to commit my child 

To Murder's dread arena, where I saw 

His father and his ill-starr'd brethren fall : 

I loathe for him the slippery way of blood ; 

I ask if bloodless means may gain his end. 

In me the fever of revengeful hate, 

Passion's first furious longing to imbrue 

Our own right hand in the detested blood 

Of enemies, and count their dying groans — 

If in this feeble bosom such a fire 

Did ever burn — is long by time allay'd, 

And I would now have Justice strike, not me. 

Besides — for from my brother and my son 

I hide not even this — the reverence deep. 

Remorseful, tow'rd my hostile solitude, 

By Polyphontes never fail'd-in once 

Through twenty years ; his mournful anxious zeal 

To efface in me the memory of his crime — 

Though it efface not that, yet makes me wish 

His death a public, not a personal act, 

106 MEROPE. 

Treacherously plotted 'twixt my son and me ; 
To whom this day he came to proffer peace, 
Treaty, and to this kingdom for my son 
Heirship, with fair intent, as I believe : — 
For that he plots thy death, account it false ; 

[to ^PYTUS. 

Number it with the thousand rumours vain. 
Figments of plots, wherewith intriguers fill 
The enforced leisure of an exile's ear : — 
Immers'd in serious state-craft is the King, 
Bent above all to pacify, to rule, 
Rigidly, yet in settled calm, this realm ; 
Not prone, all say, to useless bloodshed now. — 
So much is due to truth, even tow'rds our foe. 

[to Laias. 
Do I, then, give to usurpation grace. 
And from his natural rights my son debar ? 
Not so : let him — and none shall be more prompt 
Than I to help — raise his Messenian friends ; 
Let him fetch succours from Arcadia, gain 

MEROPE. 107 

His Argive or his Spartan cousins' aid ; 
Let him do this, do aught but recommence 
Murder's uncertain, secret, perilous game — 
And I, when to his righteous standard down 
Flies Victory wing'd, and Justice raises then 
Her sword, will be the first to bid it fall. 
If, haply, at this moment, such attempt 
Promise not fair, let him a little while I 

Have faith, and trust the future and the Gods. 
He may — for never did the Gods allow 
Fast permanence to an ill-gotten throne. — 
These are but woman's words ; — yet, Laias, thou 
Despise them not ! for, brother, thou, like me, 
Wert not among the feuds of warrior-chiefs, 
Each sovereign for his dear-bought hour, born ; 
But in the pastoral Arcadia rear'd. 
With Cypselus our father, where we saw 
The simple patriarchal state of kings, 
Where sire to son transmits the unquestion'd crown, 
Unhack'd, unsmirch'd, unbloodied, and hast learnt 

108 MEROPE. 

That spotless hands unshaken sceptres hold. 
Having learnt this, then, use thy knowledge now. 


Which way to lean I know not : bloody strokes 
Are never free from doubt, though sometimes due. 


O Merope, the common heart of man 
Agrees to deem some deeds so horrible, 
That neither gratitude, nor tie of race, 
Womanly pity, nor maternal fear, 
Nor any pleader else, shall be indulg'd 
To breathe a syllable to bar revenge. 
All this, no doubt, thou to thyself hast urg'd — 
Time presses, so that theme forbear I now : 
Direct to thy dissuasions I reply. 
Blood-founded thrones, thou say'st, are insecure ; 
Our father's kingdom, because pure, is safe. 
True ; but what cause to our Arcadia gives 

MEKOPE. 109 

Its privileg'd immunity from blood, 

But that, since first the black and fruitful Earth 

In the primeval mountain -forests bore 

Pelasgus, our forefather and mankind's. 

Legitimately sire to son, with us, 

Bequeaths the allegiance of our shepherd-tribes. 

More loyal, as our line continues more ? — 

How can your Heracleidan chiefs inspire 

This awe which guards our earth-sprung, lineal kings? 

What permanence, what stability like ours, 

Whether blood flows or no, can yet invest 

The broken order of your Dorian thrones, 

Fix'd yesterday, and ten times chang'd since then ? — 

Two brothers, and their orphan nephews, strove 

For the three conquer'd kingdoms of this isle : 

The eldest, mightiest brother, Temenus, took 

Argos: a juggle to Cresphontes gave 

Messenia : to those helpless Boys, the lot 

Worst of the three, the stony Sparta, fell. 

August, indeed, was the foundation here ! 

1 10 MEROPE. 

What followed ? — His most trusted kinsman slew 
Cresphontes in Messenia ; Temenus 
Perish'd in Argos by liis jealous sons ; 
The Spartan Brothers with their guardian strive :■ 
Can houses thus ill-seated — thus embroil'd — 
Thus little founded in their subjects' love, 
Practise the indulgent, bloodless policy 
Of dynasties long-fix'd, and honour'd long ? 
No ! Vigour and severity must chain 
Popular reverence to these recent lines ; 
If their first-founded order be maintain'd — 
Their murder'd rulers terribly aveng'd — 
Ruthlessly their rebellious subjects crush'd. — 
Since policy bids thus, what fouler death 
Than thine illustrious husband's to avenge 
Shall we select ? — than Polyphontes, what 
More daring and more grand offender find ? 
Justice, my sister, long demands this blow, 
And Wisdom, now thou see'st, demands it too : 
To strike it, then, dissuade thy son no more ; 


For to live disobedient to these two, 
Justice and Wisdom, is no life at all. 


The Gods, O mistress dear ! the hard-soul'd man, 
Who spar'd not others, bid not us to spare. 


Alas ! against my brother, son, and friends. 
One, and a woman, how can I prevail ? — 
O brother ! thou hast conquer'd ; yet, I fear. . . . 
Son ! with a doubting heart thy mother yields . . 
May it turn happier than my doubts portend ! 


Meantime on thee the task of silence only 
Shall be impos'd ; to us shall be the deed. 
Now, not another word, but to our act ! 
Nephew I thy friends are sounded, and prove true 
Thy father's murderer, in the public place, 

112 MEROPE. 

Performs, this noon, a solemn sacrifice : 

Go with him — choose the moment — strike thy blow! 

If prudence counsels thee to go unarm'd, 

The sacrificer's axe will serve thy turn. 

To me and the Messenians leave the rest. 

With the Gods' aid — and, if they give but aid 

As our just cause deserves, I do not fear. 

[-ffipTTCS, Laias, and Arcas, go out. 


O Son and Mother, str. i. 

Whom the Gods o'ershadow, 

In dangerous trial, 

With certainty of favour ! 

As erst they shadow'd 

Your race's founders 

From irretrievable woe : 

When the seed of Lycaon 

Lay forlorn, lay outcast, 

Callisto and her Boy. 

MEROPE. 113 

What deep-grass'd meadow ant. i. 

At the meeting valleys — 

Where clear-flowing Ladon, 

Most beautiful of waters, 

Receives the river 

Whose trout are vocal, 

The Aroanian stream — 

Without home, without mother, 

Hid the babe, hid Areas, 

The nursling of the dells ? 

But the sweet-smelling myrtle, str. i. 

And the pink-flower'd oleander, 

And the green agnus-castus, 

To the West-Wind's murmur. 

Rustled round his cradle ; 

And Maia rear'd liim. 

Then, a boy, he startled 

In the snow-fill'd hollows 

Of high CyUene 


1 1 4 3IER0PE. 

The white mountain-birds ; 
Or surpris'd, in the glens, 
The basking tortoises, 
Wliose strip'd shell founded 
In the hand of Hermes 
The glory of the lyre. 

But his mother, Callisto, avt. 2. 

In her hiding-place of the thickets 

Of the lentisk and ilex, 

In her rough form, fearing 

The hunter on the outlook. 

Poor chano^elino; ! trembled. 

Or the children, plucking 

In the thorn-chok'd gullies 

Wild gooseberries, scar'd her, 

The shy mountain -bear. 

Or the shepherds, on slopes 

With pale-spik'd lavender 

And crisp thyme tufted. 

MEROPE. 115 

Came upon her, stealing 

At day-break through the dew. 

Once, 'mid the gorges, sir. .?. 

Spray-drizzled, lonely, 

Unclimb'd by man — 

O'er whose cliffs the townsmen 

Of crag -perch'd Nonacris 

Behold in summer 

The slender torrent 

Of Styx come dancing, 

A wind-blown thread — 

By the precipices of Khelmos. 

The fleet, desperate hunter. 

The youthful Areas, born of Zeus. 

His fleeing mother, 

Transform'd Callisto, 

Unwitting follow'd — 

And rais'd his spear. 


116 ilEROPE. 

Turning, with piteous ant. o. 

Distressful longing, 

Sad, eager eyes, 

JNIutelj she regarded 

Her well-known enemy. 

Low moans half utter'd 

\Miat speech refus'd her ; 

Tears cours'd, tears human, 

Down those disfigured 

Once human cheeks. 

With unutterable foreboding 

Her son, heart-stricken, ey'd her. 

The Gods had pity, made them Stars. 

Stars now they sparkle 

111 the northern Heaven ; 

The guard Arcturus, 

The guard-watch'd Bear. 

So, o'er thee and thy child, epode. 

Some God, Merope, now, 

MEROPE. 117 

In dangerous hour, stretches his hand. 
So, like a star, dawns thy son, 
Radiant with fortune and joy. 

[PoLYPHONTEs comes in. 


p Merope, the trouble on thy face 

Tells me enough thou know'st the news which all 

Messenia speaks : the prince, thy son, is dead. 

Not from my lips should consolation fall : 

To offer that, I came not ; but to urge, 

Even after news of this sad death, our league. 

Yes, once again I come ; I will not take 

This morning's angry answer for thy last : 

To the Messenian kingdom thou and I 

Are the sole claimants left ; what cause of strife 

Lay in thy son is buried in his grave. 

Most honourably I meant, I call the Gods 

To witness, offering him return and power : 

Yet, had he liv'd, suspicion, jealousy, 

1 1 8 MEROPE. 

Lievitably had surg'd up, perhaps, 

'Twixt thee and me ; suspicion, that I nurs'd 

Some ill design against him ; jealousy, 

That he enjoy'd but part, being heir to all. 

And he himself, with the impetuous heart 

Of youth, 'tis like, had never quite foregone 

The thought of vengeance on me, never quite 

Unclos'd his itching fingers from his sword. 

But thou, Merope, though deeply wrong'd, 

Though injur'd past forgiveness, as men deem, 

Yet hast been long at school with thoughtful Time, 

And from that teacher may'st have learn'd, like me, 

That all may be endur'd, and all forgiv'n ; 

Have learn'd that we must sacrifice the thirst 

Of personal vengeance to the public weal ; 

Have learn'd, that there are guilty deeds, which leave 

The hand that does them guiltless ; in a word. 

That kings live for their peoples, not themselves. 

This having learn'd, let us a union found 

(For the last time I ask, ask earnestly) 


Bas'd on pure public welfare ; let us be — 
Not Merope and Polyphontes, foes 
Blood-sever'd — but Messenia's King and Queen : 
Let us forget ourselves for those we rule. 
Speak : I go hence to offer sacrifice 
To the Preserver Zeus ; let me return 
Thanks to him for our amity as well. 


Oh had'st thou, Polyphontes, still but kept 
The silence thou hast kept for twenty years I 


Henceforth, if what I urge displease, I may : 
But fair proposal merits fair reply. 


And thou shalt have it ! Yes, because thou hast 

For twenty years forborne to interrupt 

The solitude of her whom thou hast wrong'd — 

I 4 

120 MEROPE. 

That scanty grace shall earn thee this reply. — 

First, for our union. Trust me, 'twixt us two 

The brazen-footed Fury ever stalks, 

Waving her hundred hands, a torch in each, 

Aglow with angry fire, to keep us twain. 

Now, for thyself. Thou com'st with well-cloak'd joy, 

To announce the ruin of my husband's house, 

To sound thy triumph in his widow's ears. 

To bid her share thine unendanger'd throne : — 

To this thou would'st have answer. — Take it : Fly i 

Cut short thy triumph, seeming at its height ; 

Fling off thy crown, supposed at last secure ; 

Forsake this ample, proud Messenian realm : 

To some small, humble, and unnoted strand, 

Some rock more lonely than that Lemnian isle 

Where Philoctetes pin'd, take ship and flee : 

Some solitude more inaccessible 

Than the ice-bastion'd Caucasean Mount, 

Chosen a prison for Prometheus, climb : 

There in unvoic'd oblivion hide thy name, 

MEROPE. 121 

And bid the sun, thine only visitant, 

Divulge not to the far-off world of men 

What once-fam'd wretch he hath seen lurking there. 

There nurse a late remorse, and thank the Gods, 

And thank thj bitterest foe, that, having lost 

All things but life, thou lose not life as well. 


What mad bewilderment of grief is this ? 


Thou art bewilder'd : the sane head is mine. 


I pity thee, and wish thee calmer mind. 


Pity thyself ; none needs compassion more. 


Yet, oh I could'st thou but act as reason bids I 

1 22 MEROPE. 


And in my turn I wish the same for thee. 


All I could do to soothe thee has been tried. 


For that, in this my warning, thou art paid. 


Know'st thou then aught, that thus thou sound'st the 
alarm ? 


Thy crime : that were enough to make one fear. 


My deed is of old date, and long aton'd. 


Aton'd this very day, perhaps, it is. 

3IER0PE. 123 


My final victory proves the Gods appeas'd. 


O victor, victor, trip not at the goal ! 


Hatred and passionate Envy blind thine eyes. 


Heaven-abandon'd wretch, that envies thee ! 


Thou hold'st so cheap, then, the Messenian crown ? 


1 think on what the future hath in store. 


To-day I reign : the rest I leave to Fate. 

124 MEROPE. 


For Fate thou wait'st not long ; since, in this hour- 


What? for so far she hath not prov'd my foe — 


Fate seals my lips, and drags to ruin thee. 


Enough ! enough ! I will no longer hear 

The ill-boding note which frantic Envy sounds 

To affright a fortune which the Gods secure. 

Once more my friendship thou rejectest : well ! 

More for this land's sake grieve I, than mine own. 

I chafe not with thee, that thy hate endures, 

Nor bend myself too low, to make it yield. 

What I have done is done ; by my own deed, 

Neither exulting nor asham'd, I stand. 

Why should this heart of mine set mighty store 

MEROPE. 125 

By the construction and report of men ? 
Not men's good-word hath made me what I am. 
Alone I master'd power ; and alone, 
Since so thou wilt, I will maintain it still. 

[PoLYPHONTES goes out. 


Did I then waver *'^- ^• 

(O woman's judgment !) 

Misled by seeming 

Success of crime ? 

And ask, if sometimes 

The Gods, perhaps, allow'd you, 

lawless daring of the strong, 

O self-will recklessly indulg'd ? 

Not time, not lightning, ant 1 

Not rain, not thunder. 
Efface the endless 
Decrees of Heaven. 

126 MEROPE. 

Make Justice alter, 

Revoke, assuage her sentence, 

Which dooms dread ends to dreadful deeds, 

And violent deaths to violent men. 

But the signal example str. 2. 

Of in variableness of justice 

Our glorious founder 

Hercules gave us, 

Son lov'd of Zeus his father : for he err'd, 

And the strand of Euboea, ant. 2. 

And the promontory of Cenesum, 

His painful, solemn 

Punishment witness'd. 

Beheld his expiation : for he died. 

O villages of CEta str. -s. 

With hedges of tlie wild rose ! 
pastures of the mountain, 

MEROPE. 12* 

Of short grass, beaded with dew. 

Between the pine-woods and the cliffs ! 

O cliffs, left by the eagles, 

On that morn, when the smoke-cloud 

From the oak-built, fiercely-burning pyre, 

Up the precipices of Trachis, 

Drove them screaming from their eyries ! 

A willing, a willing sacrifice on that day 

Ye witness'd, ye mountain lawns. 

When the shirt-wrapt, poison-blister'd Hero 

Ascended, with undaunted heart. 

Living, his own funeral-pile. 

And stood, shouting for a fiery torch ; 

And the kind, chance-arriv'd Wanderer, 

The inheritor of the bovv^, 

Coming swiftly through the sad Trachinians, 

Put the torch to the pile : 

That the flame tower'd on high to the Heaven : 

Bearing with it, to Olympus, 

To the side of Hebe, 

128 MEROPE. 

To immortal delight, 
The labour-releas'd Hero. 

O heritage of Neleus, an'. 3. 

ni-kept by his infirm heirs ! 

O kingdom of Messene, 

Of rich soil, chosen by craft, 

Possess'd in hatred, lost in blood ! 

O town, high Stenyclaros, 

With new walls, which the victors 

From the four-town'd, mountain-shadow'd Doris, 

For their Hercules-issu'd princes 

Built in strength against the vanquish'd ! 

Another, another sacrifice on this day 

Ye witness, ye new-built towers ! 

When the white-rob'd, garland-crowned Monarch 

Approaches, with undoubting heart. 

Living, his own sacrifice-block, 

And stands, shouting for a slaughterous axe ; 

And the stern. Destiny-brought Stranger, 

The inheritor of the realm, 

MEROPE. 129 

Coming swiftly through the jocund Dorians, 

Drives the axe to its goal : 

That the blood rushes in streams to the dust ; 

Bearing with it, to Erinnjs, 

To the Gods of Hades, 

To the dead unaiveng'd, 

The fiercely-requir'd Victim. 

Knowing he did it, unknowing pays for it. [epode. 

Unknowing, unknowing, 

Thinking aton'd-fer 

Deeds unatonable. 

Thinking appeas'd 

Gods unappeasable, 

Lo, the Ill-fated One, 

Standing for harbour, 

Right at the harbour-mouth, 

Strikes, with all sail set. 

Full on the sharp-pointed 

Needle of ruin ! 


130 MEROPE. 

[.4 Messexger comes i}i. 

honour'd Queen, O faithful followers 
Of your dead master's line, I bring you news 
To make the gates of this long-mournful house 
Leap, and flj open of themselves for joy ! 

\^noise and shouting heard. 
Hark how the shouting crowds tramp hitherward 
With glad acclaim ! Ere they forestall my news, 
Accept it : — Polyphontes is no more. 


Is my sou safe ? that question bounds my care. 


He is, and by the people hail'd for king. 


The rest to me is little : yet, since that 

Must from some mouth be heard, relate it thou. 

MEROPE. • 131 


Not little, if thou saw'st what love, what zeal, 
At thy dead husband's name the people show. 
For when this morning in the public square 
I took my stand, and saw the unarm'd crowds 
Of citizens in holiday attire, 
Women and children intermix'd ; and then, 
Group'd around Zeus's altar, all in arms, 
Serried and grim, the ring of Dorian lords — 
I trembled for our prince and his attempt. 
Silence and expectation held us all : 
Till presently the King came forth, in robe 
Of sacrifice, his guards clearing the way 
Before him — at his side, the prince, thy son, 
Unarm'd and travel-soil'd, just as he was : 
With him conferring the King slowly reach'd 
The altar in the middle of the square. 
Where, by the sacrificing minister. 
The flower-dress'd victim stood, a milk-white bull, 
Swaying from side to side his massy head 


132 MEROPE. 

With short impatient lowings : there he stopp'd, 
And seem'd to muse awhile, then rais'd his eyes 
To Heaven, and laid his hand upon the steer, 
And cried — Zeus, let lohat blood-guiltiness 
Yet stains our land be by this blood washed out, 
And grant henceforth to the Messenians peace ! 
That moment, while with upturn'd eyes he pray'd, 
The prince snatch'd from the sacrificer's hand 
The axe, and on the forehead of the King, 
Where twines the chaplet, dealt a mighty blow 
Which fell'd him to the earth, and o'er him stood, 
And shouted — Since by thee defilement came. 
What blood so meet as thine to wash it out ? 
What hand to strike thee meet as mine, the hand 
Of ^pytus, thy murdered master's son ? — 
But, gazing at him from the ground, the King . . . 
Is it, then, thou ? he murmur'd ; and with that, 
He bow'd his head, and deeply groan'd, and died. 
Till then we all seem'd stone : but then a cry 
Broke from the Dorian lords : forward th^y rush'd 

ilEROPE 133 

To circle the prince round : when suddenly 

Laias in arms sprang to his nephew's side, 

Crying — ye Messenians, icill ye leave 

The son to perish as ye left the sire ? 

And from that moment I saw nothing clear : 

For from all sides a deluge, as it seem'd. 

Burst o'er the altar and the Dorian lords, 

Of holiday-clad citizens transform'd 

To armed warriors : I heard vengeful cries ; 

I heard the clash of weapons ; then I saw 

The Dorians lying dead, thy son hail'd king. 

Andj truly, one who sees, what seem'd so strong, 

The power of this tyrant and his lords, 

Melt like a passing smoke, a nightly dream. 

At one bold word, one enterprising blow — 

Might ask, why we endur'd their yoke so long : 

But that we know how every perilous feat 

Of daring, easy as it seems when done. 

Is easy at no moment but the right. 

K 3 

134 MEROPE. 


Thou speakest well ; but here, to give our eyes 
Authentic proof of what thou tell'st our ears, 
The conquerors, with the King's dead body, come. 

[-^PYTUS, Laias, and Arcas come in with the dead body of 
PoLTPHONTES, followed by a crowd of the Messenians.] 


Sister, from this day forth thou art no more 
The widow of a husband unaveng'd. 
The anxious mother of an exil'd son. 
Thine enemy is slain, thy son is king ! 
Rejoice with us ! and trust me, he who wish'd 
Welfare to the Messenian state, and calm, 
Could find no way to found them su»e as this. 


Mother, all these approve me : but if thou 
Approve not too, I have but half my joy. 

MEROPE. 135 


O ^pjtus, my son, behold, behold 

This iron man, my enemy and thine, 

This politic sovereign, lying at our feet, 

With blood-bespatter'd robes, and chaplet shorn ! 

Inscrutable as ever, see, it keeps 

Its sombre aspect of majestic care, , 

Of solitary thought, unshar'd resolve, ' 

Even in death, that countenance austere. 

So look'd he, when to Stenyclaros first, 

A new-made wife, I from Arcadia came, 

And found him at my husband's side, his friend, 

His kinsman, his right hand in peace and war ; 

Unsparing in his service of his toil. 

His blood ; to me, for I confess it, kind : 

So look'd he in that dreadful day of death : 

So, when he pleaded for our league but now. 

What meantest thou, O Polyphontes, what 

Desired'st thou, what truly spurr'd thee on ? 

Was policy of state, the ascendancy 

136 MEROPE. 

Of the Heracleidan conquerors, as thou said'st, 
Indeed thy lifelong passion and sole aim ? 
Or did'st thou but, as cautious schemers use, 
Cloak thine ambition with these specious words ? 
I know not ; just, in either case, the stroke 
Which laid thee low, for blood requires blood : 
But yet, not knowing this, I triumph not 
Over thy corpse, triumph not, neither mourn ; 
For I find worth in thee, and badness too. 
What mood of spirit, therefore, shall we call 
The true one of a man — what way of life 
His fix'd condition and perpetual walk ? 
None, since a twofold colour reigns in all. 
But thou, my son, study to make prevail 
One colour in thy life, the hue of truth : 
That Justice, that sage Order, not alone 
Natural Vengeance, may maintain thine act, 
And make it stand indeed the will of Heaven. 
Thy father's passion was this people's ease, 
This people's anarchy, thy foe's pretence ; 

MEROPE. 137 

As the chiefs rule, indeed, the people are : 

Unhappy people, where the chiefs themselves 

Are, like the mob, vicious and ignorant ! 

So rule, that even thine enemies may fail 

To find in thee a fault whereon to found, 

Of tyrannous harshness, or remissness weak : 

So rule, that as thy father thou be lov'd ; 

So rule, that as thy foe thou be obey'd. 

Take these, my son, over thine enemy's corpse 

Thy mother's prayers : and this prayer last of all, 

That even in thy victory thou show, 

Mortal, the moderation of a man. 


mother, my best diligence shall be 

In all by thy experience to be rul'd 

Where my own youth falls short. But, Laias, now, 

First work after such victory, let us go 

To render to my true Messenians thanks. 

To the Gods grateful sacrifice ; and then, 

Assume the ensigns of my father's power. 

138 MEROPE. 


Son of Cresphontes, past what perils 
Com'st thou, guided safe, to thy home ! 
What things daring I what enduring ! 
And all this by the will of the Gods. 






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39, Paterxoster Row, London. 


Agriculture and Eural Aifairs. 

Parry's (Admiral^ Mtmoir.* . 

. 22 

Rus-ieil's Memoirs of Moore . 

. 20 

Southe)'s Life of Wesley 

. 2fl 

Bav'.don on A'aluinj RentSj&f. . . 6 

" Life and Correspondence . 26 1 

Cec-il's Stuil Farm 8 

" Select Corres;-oi!dence 

. 26 

Hoskyns's Talpa 13 

Stephen's Ecclesiastical Biogruph 

r . 26 

Loudon's Asriculture . . . . 1" 

Strickland's Queens of England 

. 27 

Low's Elements of Agriculture . . -17 

Sydney Smith's Memoirs 

. 26 

Symonds's (Admiral) Memoirs 

. 27 

Arts, Manufactures, and Archi- 

Taylor's Loyola 
" Wes'iey 
W'atcrton's Autobioqraplry and Es 

, 27 


. 27 
=ays 31 

Bourne on the Screw Propeller . . 6 

Brande's Dictionary of s^cience, &c. f, 
" Organic Chemistry ... 7 

Books of General Utility. 

Chevreul on Colour .... 


Acton's Bread-Book 

. 5 

Cresy's Civil Ensineerins . _ . 


" Cookery-Book 


Fairi)iirn's Information for Enirineers 


Black's Tr'ratise on Brewing . 

. 6 

Gwilt's Kncjclopspdia of Arcliitecturs 


Cabinet Gazetteer . 


Harford's Plates from M. Anuelo . 

. 11 

" Lawyer 


Hximphreys's Parables lUuminatel 


Cust's Invalid's Own Book 

. 9 

Jameson's Sacred and Lecendary Art 

. 14 

Gilhart's Losic for the Million 

. 11 

" Commonplace-Book 


Hints on Etiquette . 

- 12 

Konis's Pictorial Life of Luther . 


How to Nurse Sick Childron . 

. 13 

Loudon's Rural Architecture . 


Hudson's Executor's Guide . 

. 14 

:MacDousairs Theory of War 


" on Makin:j Wills 

. 14 , 

Malan's Aphorisms on Drawing . 


Kesteven's Domestic Medicine 

. 15 

Moselev's Ensineeririg . 


Lardner's Cabinet Cyclnpadia 

. 16 ■ 

Pies?e's Art of Perfuniery 


Loudon's Lady's Country Compan 

ion . 17 1 

Richardson's Art of Horsemanship 

. 2.1 

Maunder's Treasury of Knowledg( 

; . 19 1 

Scharrs Date- Rook of Events in Art 


" Biographical Treasury 

. 19 

Scrivenor on the Iron Trade . 

. 24 

" Geographical Treasury 

. 19 

Steam- Engine, by the Artisan Club 

. fi 

" Scientific Treasu'-y 

. 19 

S\min2ton on the Beautiful . 


" Treasury of History 

. 19 

Ure's Dictionary of Arts, &c. . 


" Natural Hi story . 

. 19 

Piesse's .irt of Perfumery 

. 23 


Pocket ard the Stud 

. 12 

Pycroft's English Reading 

. 23 

Araso's Lives of Scientii:c ^Ten . . 5 

Recce's Medical Guide . 

. 23 

Buckmih im's (.1. S.) Memoirs 


Rich's Companion to Latin Dictioi 

lary 23 

Bunsen's Hippolytus 


Richardson's Art of Horsemanshir 

. 23 

Cro>se's (Andrew) Memorials 


Riddle's Latin Dictionaries . 

. 24 

Gleig's Essays 


Roget's English Ihesaurus . 

. 24 

Green's Princesses of En2;land 


RoWton's Debater . 

. 24 

Harford's Life of Michael Angclo . 


Short Whist .... 

. 2.5 

Lard ner's Cabinet Cyclopardi. I 


Thomson's Interest Tables . 

. 28 

Maunder's Biographical Trca- ury 


Webster's Domestic Economy 

. 32 

Memoirs of James Montgomery 


West on Children's Diseases . 

. .32 

Meriv.ile's Memoirs of Cicf-ro 


Willich's Popular Tables 

. 32 

iiountain's (Col.) Memoirs . 


Wilmot's Blackstoce 

. 33 


Botany and Gardening. 

Schmitz's History of Greece . 
Southey's Doctor .... 

. 24 
. 26 

Hassall's British Freshwater Algae 

. 12 

Stephen's Ecclesiastical Biography 

. 26 

Hooker's British Flora . 

. 13 

Lectures on French History 

. 26 

" Guide to Kew Gardens 

. 13 

Sydney Smith's Works . 

. 26 

" " " Kew Museum 

. 13 

'' Lectures 

. 26 

Lindley's Introduction to Botany 

. 15 

" Memoirs 

. 26 

" Theory of Horticulture 

. 15 

Taylor's Loyola .... 

. 27 

Loudon's Hortus Britannicus 

. 17 

"Wesley .... 

. 27 

" Amateur G:irdener . 

. 17 

Thirl wall's History of Greece . 


" Trees and Shrubs . 

. 17 

Thomas's Historical Notes 

. 28 

" Gardening 

. 17 

Thornburv's Shakspeare's England 

. 28 

" Plants 

. 17 

Townsend's State Trials 

. 28 

" Self- Instruction for Ga 


Turner's Anglo-Saxons . 

. 28 

ers, &c 

. 17 

" Middle Ages 


Pereira's Materia Medica 

. 22 

" Sacred History of the 'World 

. 28 

Rivers's Rose Amateur's Guide 

. 24 

Vehse's Austrian Court . 


Wilson's British Mosses . 

. 32 

Wade's England's Greatness . 


Whitelocke's Swedish Embassy 



Young's Christ of History 


Blair's Chronolosical Tables . 
Brewer's Historical Atlas 

• - 

Geography and Atlases. 

Bunsen's Ancient Esfvpt 


Brev.-er's Historical Atlas 

. 7 

Calendars of Ensrlish State Papers 
Haydn's Beatfon's Index 

. 8 
. 12 

Butler's Geography and Atlases . 7&8 
Cabinet Gazetteer 8 

Jaquemet's Chronolo^ . 

. 15 

Johnston's General Gazetteer 


Nicolas's Chronology of History 

. 16 

M'CuUoch's Geographical Dictionary 

. 18 

Commerce and Mercar 


Maunder's Treasury of Geography 
^Murray's Encyclopaedia of Geography 

. 19 
. 22 


Sharp's British Gazetteer 

. 25 

Gilbart's Treatise on Banking 
Lorimer'E "Youn^ Master Mariner 

. 11 

. 15 

Juvenile Books. 

Macleod's Banking . 

. IS 

Amy Herbert ..... 

. 25 

M'CuUoch's Comnierce and Navig 

ation 18 


. 25 

Scrivenor on the Iron Trade . 

. 24 

Earl's Daughter (The) . 

. 25 

Thomson's Interest Tables 

. 28 

Experience of Life .... 

. 25 

Tooke's History of Prices 

. 28 


. 25 

Hewitt's Boy's Country Book 


Criticism, History, and Me 


" (Mary) Children's Year . 


Blair's Chron. and Historical Tab] 

es . 6 

Katharine Ashton .... 


Brewer's Historical Atlas 


Laneton Parsonage .... 


Bunsen's Ancient Egypt 


Margaret Percival . 


" Hippolytus 


Stepping-Stones to Knowledge for the | 

Burton's History of Scotland . 




Calendars of English State Papers 

. 8 

Chapman's Gustarus Adolphus 
Connolly's Sappers and Miners 

. 8 
. 9 

Medicine and Surgery. 

Conybeare and Howson's St. Paul 

. 9 

Brodie's Psvrhological Inquiries . 


Fischer's Francis Bacon . 

. 10 

Bull's Hit5ts to Mothers . 


Gleig's Essays .... 

. 11 

" Management of Children 


Gurney's Historical Sketches 

. 11 

Copland's Dictionary of Medicine . 


Herschel's Essays and Addresses 

. 12 

Cust's Invalid's Own Book 


Jeffrey's (Lord) Contributions 

. 15 

Holland's Mental Physiology . 


Kemble's Anglo Saxons . 

. 15 

" Medical Notes and Re-iectiont 


Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia 

. 16 

How to Nurse Sick Children . 


Macaulay's Critical and Hist. Essa 

ys . 17 

Kestevens Domestic Medicine 


" History of England 

. . 17 

Pereira's Materia Medica 


" Speeches 

. 17 

Reece's Medical Guide . 


Mackintosh's Miscellaneous Work 

s . 18 

Richardson's Cold-water Cure 


" History of England 

. 18 

West on Diseases of Infancy . 


M'CuUoch's Geographical Diction 

ary . 18 

Maunder's Treasury of History 
Merivale's History of Rome . 

. 19 
. 19 

Miscellaneous Literature. 

" Roman Republic . 

. 19 

Bacon's (Lord) Works . 


Milner's Church History . 

. 20 

Brougham's (Lord) Acts and Bills 


Moore's (Thomas) Memoirs, &c. 

. 20 

Defence of EcUpse of Faith . 


Mures Greek Literature 

. 21 

Eclipse of Faith .... 


Normanby's Tear of Revolution 

. 22 

Greg's Political and Social Essays 


Perry's Franks 


Greyson's Select Correspondence . 


Raikes's Journal 

. 23 

Gurney's Evening Recreations 


Riddle's Latin Dictionaries . 

. 24 

Hassall's Adulterations Detected, &c. 


Rogers's Essays from Edinb. Revi 

ew . 24 

Haydn's Book of Dignities 
Holland's Mental Physiology 


Roget's English Thesaurus . 

. 24 



Hoolser's Kew Guides . , . .13 
Hewitt's Rural Life of England . . 13 

'•' Visits to Remarkable Places . 13 
Hutton's lOO Years Ago . . ., . 14 
Jameson's Commonplace-Book . . 14 
Jeffrey's (Lord) Contributions . . 15 
Johns's Land of Silence and of Darkness 15 
Last of the Old Squires . . . .22 
Macaulay's Critical and Hist. Essays . 17 
" Speeches . . '. .17 
Mackintosh's Miscellaneous "Works . 18 
Maitland's Church in the Catacombs . 18 
Martineau's Miscellanies . . .19 
Moore's Church Cases . . . .21 
Pycroft's English Reading . . .23 
Riclr's Companion to Latin Dictionary 23 
Riddle's Latin Dictionaries . . .24 

Rowton's Debater 24 

Seaward's Narrative of his Shipwreck . 24 
Sir Roger De Coverley .... 25 
Smith's (Rev. Sydney) AVorks . . 26 
Southey's Commonplace-Books . . 26 

" The Doctor, &c. . . . 26 

Stephen's Essays 26 

Stow's Training System . . . .27 
Thomson's Laws of Thought . . 28 

Townsend's State Trials . . . .28 
Yonge's Enelish-Greek Lexicon . . 32 
" Latin Gradus . . . .32 
Zumpt's Latin Grammar . . .32 

Natural History in general. 

Catlow's Popular Conchology . . 8 

Ephemera and Young on the" Salmon ■ 10 
Garratt's Marvels of Instinct . . . 11 
Gosse's Natural History of Jamaica • 11 
Kirby and Spence's Entomology . . 15 
Lee's Elements of Natural History . 15 
Maunder's Natural History . . .19 
Turton's Shells of the British Islands . 28 
Van der Hoeven's Handbook of Zoology 31 
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Y'ouatt's The Dog .... 32 

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Copland's Dictionary of Medicine . 9 

Cresy's Civil Engineering ... 9 
Gwilt's Architecture . . . .11 
Johnston's Geographical Dictionary . 15 
Loudon's Agriculture . . . .17 
" Rural Architecture . . 17 
" Gardening . . . .17 

" Plants 17 

" Trees and Shrubs . . .17 
M'CuUoch's Geographical Dictionary . 18 
" Dictionary of Commerce . 18 

Murray's Encyclop<edia of Geography . 22 
Sharp's British Gazetteer . . .25 
Ure"s Dictionary of Arts, &c. . . .31 
"Webster's Domestic Economy . . 32 

Eeligious and Moral Works. 

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Bloomfield's Greek Testament . . 6 

Calvert's Wife's Manual .... 8 

Cleve Hall 25 

Conybeare's Essays 9 

Conybeare and Howson's St. Paul 

Cotton's Instructions in Christianity 

Dale's Domestic Liturgy 

Defence ol £clipse of Taitli 

Disciphne .... 

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Eclipse of Faith 

Englishman's Greek Concordance 

" Heb. & Chald. Concord. 

Experience (The) of Life 


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Hook's Lectures on Passion "Week 

Home's Introduction to Scriptures 
" Abridgment of ditte • 

Hue's Christianity in Chica , 

Humphreys's Parables Illuminated 

Ivors, by the Author of Aniij Herbert 

Jameson's Sacred Legends 
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'* Legends of the Madonna 

" on Female Employment . 

Jeremy Taylor's Works . 

Katharine Ashton .... 

Koiiig's Pictorial Life of Luther . 

Laneton Parsonage .... 

Letters to my Unknoivn Friends . 
" on Happiness 

Lyra Germanica .... 

Macnausht on Inspiration 

Maguire's Rome .... 

Maitland's Church in the Catacombs 

Margaret Percival .... 

Martineau's Christian Life 
" Hymns 

Merivale's Christian Records 

Milner's Church of Christ 

Moore on the Use of the Body 
" " Soul and Body 
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Morning Clouds .... 

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Powell's Christiqf ity without Judaism 
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Readings for Lent .... 
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Saints our Example ... 

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Taylor's Loyola .... 
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Theologia Germanica 

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" Mystery .... 

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. 10 

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. 10 

. 11 

. 15 

. 15 

. 7 

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. 18 

. 18 

. 20 

. 20 

. 20 

. 20 

. 21 

. 21 

. 20 

. 23 

. 25 

. 26 

. 26 

. 28 

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Hunt on Light 

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Steam-Engine (The) 

Rural Sports. 

Baker's Rifle and Hound in Ceylon 
Berkeley's Forests of France . 
niaine'8 Dictionary of Sports . 

Cecil's Stable Practice . 

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Davy's Fishing Excursions, 2 Series 
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'' Book of the Salmon 

Hawker's Young Sportsman . 
The Hunting-Field .... 
Idle's Hints on Shooting 
Pocket and the Stud 
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Stonehenge on the Greyhound 
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Veterinary Medicine, &c. 

Cecil's Stable Practice . 

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Richardson's Horsemanship . 
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Stud (The) .... 
Youatt's The Dog . 
The Horse . 

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